In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
He was with God in the beginning.
Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
In him was life, and that life was the light of men.
The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood  it.

John 1:1-5


1:1--What Jesus taught and what he did are tied inseparably to who he is.  John shows Jesus as fully human and fully God.  Although Jesus took upon himself full humanity and lived as a man, he never ceased to be the eternal God who has always existed, the Creator and Sustainer of all things, and the source of eternal life.  This is the truth about Jesus, and the foundation of all truth.  If we cannot or do not believe this basic truth, we will not have enough faith to trust our eternal destiny to him.  That is why John wrote this Gospel--to build faith and confidence in Jesus Christ so that we may believe that he truly was and is the Son of God.  John wrote to believers everywhere, both Jews and non-Jews (Gentiles).  As one of Jesus'  12 disciples, John was an eyewitness, so his story is accurate.  His book is not a biography (like the book of Luke); it is a thematic presentation of Jesus' life.  Many in John's original audience had a Greek background.  Greek culture encouraged worship of many mythological gods, whose supernatural characteristics were as important to Greeks as genealogies were to Jews.  John shows that Jesus is not only different from but superior to these gods of mythology.  What does John mean by the Word?  The Word was a term used by theologians and philosophers, both Jews and Greeks, in many different ways.  In Hebrew Scripture, the Word was an agent of creation (Psalm 33:6), the source of God's message to his people through the prophets (Hosea 1:2), and God's law; his standard of holiness (Psalm 119:11).  In Greek philosophy, the Word was the principle of reason that governed the world; or the thought still in the mind, while in Hebrew thought, the Word was another expression for God.  John's description shows clearly that he is speaking of Jesus--a human being he knew and loved, but at the same time the Creator of the universe, the ultimate revelation of God, the living picture of God's holiness, the One in whom all things hold together (Colossians 1:17).  To Jewish readers, the Word was God was blasphemous.  To Greek readers, the Word became flesh was unthinkable.  To John, this new understanding of the Word was gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ.

1:3--When God created, he made something from nothing.  Because we are created beings, we have no basis for pride.  Remember that you exist only because God made you, and you have special gifts only because God gave them to you.  With God you are something valuable and unique; apart from God you are nothing, and if you try to live without him, you will be abandoning the purpose for which you were made.

1:3-5--Do you ever feel that your life is too complex for God to understand?  Remember, God created the entire universe, and nothing is too difficult for him.  God created you; he is alive today, and his love is bigger than any problem you may face.

1:4,5--The darkness has not understood it means the darkness of evil never has and never will overcome or extinguish God's light.  Jesus Christ is the Creator of life, and his life brings light to mankind.  In his light, we see ourselves as we really are (sinners in need of a Savior).  When we follow Jesus, the true Light, we can avoid walking blindly and falling into sin.  He lights the path ahead of us so we can see how to live.  He removes the darkness of sin from our lives.  Have you allowed the light of Christ to shine into your life?  Let Christ guide your life, and you'll never need to stumble in darkness.

There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John.
He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe.
He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.
The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. 
He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.
He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.
Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God--
children born not of natural descent,  nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.

John 1:6-13


1:6-8--In this book, the name John refers to John the Baptist.  

1:8--We, like John the Baptist, are not the source of God's light;  we merely reflect that light.  Jesus Christ is the true Light;  he helps us to see our way to God and shows us how to walk along that way.  But Christ has chosen to reflect his light through his followers to an unbelieving world, perhaps because unbelievers are not able to bear the full blazing glory of his light firsthand.  The word witness indicates our role as reflectors of Christ's light.  We are never to present ourselves as the light to others, but are always to point them to Christ, the Light.

1:10, 11--Although Christ created the world, the people he created didn't recognize him.  Even the people chosen by God to prepare the rest of the world for the Messiah rejected him, although the entire Old Testament pointed to his coming.

1:12, 13--All who welcome Jesus Christ as Lord of their lives are reborn spiritually, receiving new life from God.  Through faith in Christ, this new birth changes us from the inside out--rearranging our attitudes, desires, and motives.  Being born makes you physically alive and places you in your parents' family.  Being born of God makes you spiritually alive and puts you in God's family.  Have you asked Christ to make you a new person?  This fresh start in life is available to all who believe in Christ.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only,  who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, "This was he of whom I said, `He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.'"
From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.
For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only,  who is at the Father's side, has made him known.
Now this was John's testimony when the Jews of Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was.
He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, "I am not the Christ. "
They asked him, "Then who are you? Are you Elijah?" He said, "I am not." "Are you the Prophet?" He answered, "No."
Finally they said, "Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?"
John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, "I am the voice of one calling in the desert, `Make straight the way for the Lord.'"

John 1:14-23


1:14  The word became flesh means becoming human.  By doing so, Christ became [1] the perfect teacher-- in Jesus' life we see how God thinks and therefore how we should think [Philippians 2:5-11]; [2] the perfect example-- as a model of what we are to become, he shows us how to live and gives us the power to live that way [Peter 2:21]; [3] the perfect sacrifice-- Jesus came as a sacrifice for all sins, and his death satisfied gods requirements for the removal of sin [ Colossians 1:15-23].  The One and Only , who came from the Father means Jesus  is God's only an unique son.  The emphasis is on unique.  Jesus is one of a kind and enjoys a relationship with God unlike all believers who are called children and said to be born of God.  When Christ was born, God became a man.  He was not part man and part got; he was completely human and completely divine [Colossians 2:9].  Before Christ came, people could know God partially.  After Christ came, people could know God fully because he became visible and tangible in Christ.  Christ is the perfect expression of God in human form.  The two most common errors people make about Jesus are to minimize his humanity or to minimize his divinity.  Jesus is both God and man

1:17   law and Grace are both aspects of God's nature that he uses in dealing with.  Moses emphasized God's law and justice, While Jesus Christ came to highlight God's mercy, love, and forgiveness.  Moses could only be the giver of the law, While Christ came to fulfill the law [Matthew 5:17].  The nature and we'll of God were revealed in the law; now the nature and will of God are revealed in Jesus Christ.  Rather than coming through cold  stone tablets, God's revelation [truth] now comes through a person's life.  As we get to know Christ better, our understanding of God willing crease.

1:18  God communicated to various people in the Old Testament, usually prophets who were told to give specific messages.  But no one ever saw God.  God the One and Only is a title showing that Jesus is both God and the father unique son.  In Christ, God revealed his nature and essence in a way that could be seen and touched.  In Christ, God became a man who lived on earth.

1:19  the priests and Levites were respected religious leaders in Jerusalem.  Priests served in the temple, and low Levites assisted them.  The leaders that came to see John were Pharisees [ 1:24], a group that both John the Baptist and Jesus often denounced.  Many of them outwardly obeyed God's laws to look pious, well inward lay their hearts were filled with pride and greed.  The Pharisees  believed that their own oral traditions were just as important as God's inspired Word.  These leaders came to see John the Baptist for several reasons; [1] their duty as guardians of the state caused them to want to investigate any new preaching [Deuteronomy 13:1-5; 18:20-22].  [2] they wanted to find out if John had the credentials of a prophet.  [3] John had quite a following, and it was growing.  They were probably jealous and wanted to see why does man was so popular.

1:21-23  In the Pharisees' minds, there were four options regarding John the Baptist's identity:  he was [1] the prophet foretold by Moses [ Deuteronomy 18:15] ,[ 2] Elijah [Malachi 4:5], [3] the Messiah, or [ 4] a false prophet.  John d Knight being the first three personages.  Instead he called himself, in the words of the Old Testament prophet Isaiah, A voice of one calling:  in the desert prepare the way for the Lord [Isaiah 40:3].  The leaders kept pressing John to say who he was because people were expecting the Messiah to come [Luke 3:15].  But John emphasized only why he had come-- to prepare the way for the Messiah.  The Pharisees missed the point.  They wanted to know who John was, but John wanted them to know who Jesus was.  

Now some Pharisees who had been sent
questioned him, "Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?"
"I baptize with  water," John replied, "but among you stands one you do not know.
He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie."
This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
This is the one I meant when I said, `A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.'
I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel."
Then John gave this testimony: "I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him.
I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, `The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.'
I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God."

John 1:24-34


1:25,26--John was baptizing Jews.  The Essences [a strict, monastic sect Judaism] practiced baptism for purification, but normally only non-Jews [Gentiles] were baptized when they converted to Judaism.  When the Pharisees questioned John's  authority to baptized, they were asking who gave John the right to treat God's chosen people like Gentiles.  John said baptized with water-I he was merely helping the people perform a symbolic act of repentance.  But soon one would come who would truly forgive sins, something only the Son of God-the Messiah-- could do.

1:27--John the Baptist said he was not even worthy to be Christ's slave, to prepare the humble task of unfastening his shoes.  But according to Luke 7:28, Jesus said that John was the greatest of all prophets.  In such a great person  felt inadequate even to be Christ's slave, how much more should we lay aside our pride to serve  Christ!  when we truly understand who Christ is, our pride and self importance melt away.

1:29--Every morning and evening, a lamb was sacrificed in the temple for the sins of the people [Exodus 29:38-42].  Isaiah 53:7 prophesied that the Messiah, God's servant, would be led to the slaughter like a lamb.  To pay the penalty for sin, a life  had to be given-- and the God chose to provide the sacrifice himself.  The sins of the world were removed when Jesus died as the perfect sacrifice.  This is the way our sins are forgiven [Corinthians 5:7].  This sin of the world means everyone's sin, the sin of each individual.  Jesus paid the price of your sin  by his death.  You can receive forgiveness by confessing your sin to him and asking for his forgiveness.

1:30--Although John the Baptist was a well known preacher who attracted large crowds, he was content for Jesus to take the higher place.  This is truly humility, the basis for greatness  in preaching, or any other work we do for Christ.  When you are content to do what God wants you to do and let Jesus Christ be honored  for it, God will do great things through you.

1:31-34--Jesus'  baptism John the Baptist had declared Jesus to be the Messiah.  At that time God had given John a sign to show him that Jesus truly had been sent from God.  John and Jesus were related [ see Luke 1:36], sewage probably knew who he was.  But it wasn't until Jesus'  baptism that John understood that Jesus was the Messiah.  Jesus' baptism is described in Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; and Luke 3:21,22.

1:33--John the Baptist's baptism with water was preparatory, because it was repentance and symbolized the washing away of Sins.  Jesus by contrast, would baptize with the Holy Spirit.  He would send the Holy Spirit upon all believers, empowering them to live and to teach the message of salvation.  This outpouring of the Spirit came after Jesus had risen from the dead and ascended into heaven [see 20:22;Acts 2].

1:34--John the Baptist's job was too point people to Jesus, their long-awaited Messiah.  Today people are looking for someone to give them security in an insecure world.  Our job is to point  them   to   Christ and to show that he is the one whom they seek.

The next day John was there again with two of his disciples.
When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, "Look, the Lamb of God!"
When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus.
Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, "What do you want?" They said, "Rabbi" (which means Teacher), "where are you staying?"
"Come," he replied, "and you will see." So they went and saw where he was staying, and spent that day with him. It was about the tenth hour.
Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus.
The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, "We have found the Messiah" (that is, the Christ).
And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, "You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas" (which, when translated, is Peter ).
The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, "Follow me."
Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida.
Philip found Nathanael and told him, "We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote--Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph."
"Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?" Nathanael asked. "Come and see," said Philip.
When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, "Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false."
"How do you know me?" Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, "I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you."
Then Nathanael declared, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel."
Jesus said, "You believe  because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that."
He then added, "I tell you  the truth, you  shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man."

John 1:35-51


1:35 These  new disciples used several names for Jesus;  Lamb of God, Rabbi, Messiah, Son of  God, and King of Israel.  As they got to know Jesus, their appreciation for him grew. the more time we spend getting to know Christ, the more we will understand and appreciate who he is.  We may be drawn two him for his teaching, but we will come to know him as the son of  God.  Although these  disciples made this verbal shift in a few days, they would not fully understand Jesus until three years later.  [Acts 2]  What they so easily professed had to be worked out in experience.  We may find that words of faith come easily, but deep appreciation for Christ comes with living by faith.

1:37  One called the two disciples was Andrew.  The  other was probably John, the writer of this book. Why did these disciples leave the John the Baptist?  Because that's what John wanted them to do-he was pointing the way to Jesus, the one John had prepared them to  follow.  These were Jesus' is first disciples, along with Simon Peter and Nathanael.

1:38  When the two disciples began to follow Jesus, he asked them,  what do you want?   Following Christ is not enough;  we must follow him for the right reasons.  To follow Christ  for our own purposes would be asking Christ two follow us- to align with us to support advance our cause; not his.  We must examine our motives for following him.  Are we seeking his glory or ours?

1:40-42  Andrew accepted John the Baptist's testimony about Jesus and immediately went to tell his brother. Simon, about him.  There was no question in Andrew's mind that Jesus was the Messiah. Not only did he tell his brother, he was also eager to introduce others to Jesus.

1:42  Jesus saw not only who Simon was, but who he would become.  That is why he gave him a new name--Cephas in Aramaic, Peter in Greek (the name means--a rock).  Peter is not presented as rock-solid throughout the Gospels, but he became a solid rock in the days of the early church, as we learn in the book of Acts.  By giving Simon a new name, Jesus introduced a change in character. 

1:46  Nazareth was despised by the Jews because a Roman army garrison was located there.  Some have speculated that an aloof attitude or a poor reputation in morals and religion on the part of the people on Nazareth led to Nathanael's harsh comment.  Nathanael's hometown was Cana, about four miles from Nazareth.

1:46  When Nathanael heard that the Messiah was from Nazareth, he was surprised.  Philip responded, Come and see.  Fortunately for Nathanael, he went to meet Jesus and became a disciple.  If he had stuck to his prejudice without investigating further, he would have missed the Messiah!  Don't let people's stereotypes about Christ cause them to miss his power and love, invite them to come and see who Jesus really is.

1:47-49  Jesus knew about Nathanael before the two ever met.  Jesus also knows about what we are really like.  An honest person will feel comfortable with the thought that Jesus knows him or her through and through.  A dishonest person will feel uncomfortable.  You can't pretend to be something you're not.  God knows the real you and wants you to follow him.

1:51   This is a reference to Jacob's dream recorded in Genesis 28:12.  As the unique God-man, Jesus would be the ladder between heaven and earth.  Jesus is not saying that this would be a physical experience (that they would see the ladder with their eyes) like the transfiguration, but that they would have spiritual insight into Jesus' true nature and purpose for coming.

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus' mother was there,
and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.
When the wine was gone, Jesus' mother said to him, "They have no more wine."
"Dear woman, why do you involve me?" Jesus replied. "My time has not yet come."
His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you."
Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. 
Jesus said to the servants, "Fill the jars with water"; so they filled them to the brim.
Then he told them, "Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet." They did so,
and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside
and said, "Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now."
This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.
After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and brothers and his disciples. There they stayed for a few days.

John 2:1-12


2:1, 2   Jesus was on a mission to save the world, the greatest mission in the history of mankind.  Yet he took time to attend a wedding and take part in its festivities.  We may be tempted to think we should not take time out from our important work for social occasions.  But maybe these social occasions are a part of our mission.  Jesus valued these wedding festivities because they involved people, and Jesus came to be with people.  Our mission can often be accomplished in joyous times of celebration with others.  Bring balance to your life by bringing Jesus into times of pleasure as well as times of work.

2:1-3  Weddings in Jesus' day were week-long festivals.  Banquets would be prepared for many guests, and the week would be spent celebrating the new life of the married couple.  Often the whole town was invited, and everybody would come--it was considered an insult to refuse an invitation to a wedding.  To accommodate many people, careful planning was needed.  To run out of wine was more than embarrassing; it broke the strong unwritten law of hospitality.  Jesus was about to respond to a heartfelt need.

2:4  Mary was probably not asking Jesus to do a miracle; she was simply hoping that her son would help solve this major problem and find some wine.  Tradition says that Joseph, Mary's husband, was dead, so she probably was used to asking for her son's help in certain situations.   Jesus' answer to Mary is difficult to understand, but maybe that is the point.  Although Mary did not understand what Jesus was going to do, she trusted him to do what was right.  Those who believe in Jesus but run into situations they cannot understand must continue to trust that he will work in the best way.

2:5  Mary submitted to Jesus' way of doing things.  She recognized that Jesus was more than her human son--he was the Son of God.  When we bring our problems to Christ, we may think we know how he should take care of them.  But he may have a completely different plan.  Like Mary, we should submit and allow him to deal with the problem as he sees best.

2:6  The six stone water jars were normally used for ceremonial washing.  When full, the pots would hold 20 to 30 gallons.  According to the Jews' ceremonial law, people became symbolically unclean by touching objects of everyday life.  Before eating, the Jews would pour water over their hands to cleanse themselves of any bad influences associated with what they had touched.

2:10  People look everywhere but to God for excitement and meaning.  For some reason, they expect God to be dull and lifeless.  Just as the wine Jesus made was the best, so life in him is better than life on our own.  Why wait until everything else runs out before trying God?  Why save the best until last?

2:11  When the disciples was Jesus' miracle, they believed.  The miracle showed his power over nature and revealed the way he would go about his ministry--helping others, speaking with authority, and being in personal touch with people.  Miracles are not merely superhuman events, but events that demonstrate God's power.  Almost every miracle Jesus did was a renewal of fallen creation--restoring sight, making the lame walk, even restoring life to the dead.  Believe in Christ not because he is a superman but because he is the God who continues his creation, even in those of us who are poor, weak, crippled, orphaned, blind, deaf, or with some other desperate need for re-creation.

2:12  Capernaum became Jesus' home base during his ministry in Galilee.  Located on a major trade route, it was an important city in the region, with a Roman garrison and a customs station.  At Capernaum, Matthew was called to be a disciple (Matthew 9:9).  The city was also the home of several other disciples (Matthew 4:13-19) and a high-ranking government official.  It had at least one major synagogue.  Although Jesus made this city his base of operations in Galilee, he condemned it for the people's unbelief (Matthew 11:23; Luke 10:15).

When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money.
So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.
To those who sold doves he said, "Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father's house into a market!"

John 2:13-16


2:13   The Passover celebration took place yearly at the temple in Jerusalem.  Every Jewish male was expected to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem during this time (Deuteronomy 16:16).  This was a week-long festival--the Passover was one day, and the Feast of Unleavened Bread lasted the rest of the week.  The entire week commemorated the freeing of the Jews from slavery in Egypt (Exodus 12:1-13).   Jerusalem was both the religious and the political seat of Palestine, and the place where the Messiah was expected to arrive.  The temple was located there, and many Jewish families from all over the world would travel to Jerusalem during the key feasts.  The temple was on an imposing site, a hill overlooking the city.  Solomon had built the first temple on this same site almost 1,000 years earlier (949 B.C.), but his temple had been destroyed by the Babylonians (2 Kings 25).  The temple was rebuilt in 515 B.C., and Herod the Great had enlarged and remodeled it.

2:14  The temple area was always crowded during Passover with thousands of out-of-town visitors.  The religious leaders crowded it even further by allowing money changers and merchants to set up booths in the court of the Gentiles.  They rationalized this practice as a convenience for the worshipers as a way to make money for temple upkeep.  But the religious leaders did not seem to care that the court of the Gentiles was so full of merchants that foreigners found it difficult to worship.  And worship was the main purpose for visiting the temple.  No wonder Jesus was angry!  The temple tax had to be paid in local currency, so foreigners had to have their money changed.  But the money changers often would charge exorbitant exchange rates.  The people also were required to make sacrifices for sins.  Because of the long journey, many could not bring their own animals.  Some who brought animals would have them rejected for imperfections.  So animal merchants would do a flourishing business in the temple courtyard.  The price of sacrificial animals was much higher in the temple area than elsewhere.  Jesus was angry at the dishonest, greedy practices of the money changers and merchants, and he particularly disliked their presence on the temple grounds.  They were making a mockery of God's house of worship.  John records this first clearing, or cleansing of the temple.  A second clearing occurred at the end of Jesus' ministry, about three years later, and that event is recorded in Matthew 21:12-17;  Mark 11:12-19; Luke 19: 45-48.

2:14-16  God's temple was being misused by people who had turned it into a marketplace.  They had forgotten. or didn't care, that God's house is a place of worship, not a place for making a profit.  Our attitude toward the church is wrong if we see it as a place for personal contacts or business advantage.  Make sure you attend church to worship God.

2:15, 16  Jesus was obviously angry at the merchants who exploited those who had come to God's house to worship.  There is a difference between uncontrolled rage and righteous indignation--yet both are called anger.  We must be very careful how we use the powerful emotion of anger.  It is right to be angry about injustice and sin;  it is wrong to be angry over trivial personal offenses.  Jesus made a whip and chased out the money changers.  Does his example permit us to use violence against wrongdoers?  Certain authority is granted to some, but not to all.  For example, the authority to use weapons and restrain people is granted to police officers, but not to the general public.   The authority to imprison people is granted to judges, but not to individual citizens.  Jesus had God's authority, something we cannot have.  While we want to live like Christ, we should never try to claim his authority where it has not been given to us.

His disciples remembered that it is written: "Zeal for your house will consume me." 
Then the Jews demanded of him, "What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?"
Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days."
The Jews replied, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?"
But the temple he had spoken of was his body.
After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.
Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name. 
But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men.
He did not need man's testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man.

John 2:17-25


2:17   Jesus took the evil acts in the temple as an insult against God, and thus he did not deal with them halfheartedly.  He was consumed with righteous anger against such flagrant disrespect for God.

2:19, 20   The Jews understood Jesus to mean the temple out of which he had just driven the merchants and money changers.  This was the temple Zerubbabel had built over 500 years earlier, but Herod the Great had begun remodeling it, making it much larger and far more beautiful.  It had been 46 years since this remodeling had started (20 B.C.), and it still wasn't completely finished.  They understood Jesus' words to mean that this imposing building could be torn down and rebuilt in three days, and they were startled.

2:21, 22  Jesus was not asking about the temple made of stones, but about his body.  His listeners didn't realize it, but Jesus was greater than the temple (Matthew 12:6).  His words would take on meaning for his disciples after his resurrection.  That Christ so perfectly fulfilled this prediction became the strongest proof for his claims to be God.

2:23-25  The Son of God knows all about human nature.  Jesus was well aware of the truth of Jeremiah 17:9, which states, The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.  Who can understand it?  Jesus was discerning, and he knew that the faith of some followers was superficial.  Some of the same people claiming to believe in Jesus at this time would later yell Crucify him!  It's easy to believe when it is exciting and everyone else believes the same way.  But keep your faith firm even when it isn't popular to follow Christ.

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council.
He came to Jesus at night and said, "Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him."
In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again. "
"How can a man be born when he is old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!"
Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.
Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit  gives birth to spirit.
You should not be surprised at my saying, `You  must be born again.'
The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."

John 3:1-8


3:1  Nicodemus was a Pharisee and a member of the ruling   council [called the Sanhedrin]. The Pharisees were a group of religious leaders whom    Jesus and John the Baptist often criticized for being hypocrites (see  Matthew 3:7 for more on the Pharisees).  Most Pharisees were intensely jealous of Jesus because he undermined their authority and challenged their views.  But Nicodemus was searching, and he believed that Jesus had some answers.  A learned teacher himself, he came to Jesus to be taught.  No matter how intelligent and well educated you are, you must come to Jesus with an open mind and heart so he can teach you the truth about God.    Nicodemus came to Jesus personally, although he could have sent one of his assistants.  He wanted to examine Jesus for himself to separate fact from rumor.  Perhaps Nicodemus was afraid of what his peers, the Pharisees, would say about his visit, so he came after dark.  Later when he understood that Jesus was truly the Messiah, he spoke up boldly in his defense.  Like Nicodemus, we must examine Jesus for ourselves--others cannot do it for us.  Then, if we believe he is who he says, we will want to speak up for him.

3:3  What did Nicodemus know about the kingdom?  From the Bible he knew it would be ruled by God, it would be restored on earth, and it would incorporate God's people.  Jesus revealed to this devout Pharisee that the kingdom would come to the whole world, not just the Jews, and that Nicodemus wouldn't be a part of it unless he was personally born again.  This was a revolutionary concept:  the kingdom is personal, not national or ethnic, and its entrance requirements are repentance and spiritual rebirth.  Jesus later taught that God's kingdom has already begun in the hearts of believers (Luke 17:21).  It will be fully realized when Jesus returns again to judge the world and abolish evil forever.  (Revelation 21; 22)

3:5, 6  Of water and the Spirit  could refer to (1) the contrast between physical birth (water) and spiritual birth (Spirit), or (2) being regenerated by the Spirit and signifying that rebirth by Christian baptism.  The water may also represent the cleansing action of God's Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5).  Nicodemus undoubtedly would have been familiar with God's promise in Ezekiel 36:25, 26.  Jesus was explaining the importance of a spiritual rebirth, saying that people don't enter the kingdom by living a better life, but by being spiritually reborn.  

3:6   Who is the Holy Spirit?  God is three persons in one--the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.   God became man in Jesus so that Jesus could die for our sins.  Jesus rose from the dead to offer salvation to all people through spiritual renewal and rebirth.  When Jesus ascended into heaven, his physical presence left the earth, but he promised to send the Holy Spirit so that his spiritual presence would still be among mankind (see Luke 24:49).  The Holy Spirit first became available to all believers t Pentecost (Acts 2).  Whereas in Old Testament days the Holy Spirit empowered specific individuals for specific purposes, now all believers have the power of the Holy Spirit available to them.  For more on the Holy Spirit, read Romans 8:9;  1 Corinthians 12:13; and 2 Corinthians 1:22.

3:8  Jesus explained that we cannot control the work of the Holy Spirit. He works in ways we cannot predict or understand.  Just as you did not control your physical birth, so you cannot control your spiritual birth.  It is a gift from God through the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:16;  1 Corinthians 2:10-12;  1 Thessalonians 1:5, 6).

"How can this be?" Nicodemus asked.
"You are Israel's teacher," said Jesus, "and do you not understand these things?
I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony.
I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?
No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven--the Son of Man. 
Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,
that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. 

John 3:9-15


3:10,11  This Jewish teacher of the Bible knew Old Testament thoroughly, but he didn't understand what it said about the Messiah.  Knowledge is not salvation.  You should know the Bible, but even more important, you should understand the God whom the Bible reveals and the salvation that God offers.

3:14,15  When the Israelites were wandering in the desert, God sent a plague of snakes to punish the people for their rebellious attitudes.  Those doomed to die from snakebite could be healed by obeying God's command to look up at the elevated bronze snake and by believing that God would heal them if they did (see Numbers 21:8,9).  Similarly, our salvation happens when we look up to Jesus, believing he will save us.  God has provided this way for us to be healed of sin's deadly bite.

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,  that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. 
This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.
Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.
But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God." 
After this, Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them, and baptized.
Now John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were constantly coming to be baptized.
(This was before John was put in prison.)
An argument developed between some of John's disciples and a certain Jew  over the matter of ceremonial washing.

John 3:16-25


3:16   The entire gospel comes to a focus in this verse.  God's love is not static or self-centered; it reaches out and draws others in.  Here God sets the pattern of true love, the basis for all love relationships--when you love someone dearly, you are willing to give love freely to the point of-self sacrifice.  God paid dearly with the life of his Son, the highest price he could pay.  Jesus accepted our punishment, paid the price for our sins, and then offered us the new life that he had bought for us.  When we share the gospel with others, our love must be like Jesus' --willingly giving up our own comfort and security so that others might join us in receiving God's love.  Some people are repulsed by the idea of eternal life because their lives are miserable.  But eternal life is not an extension of a person's miserable, mortal life; eternal life is God's life embodied in Christ given to all believers now as a guarantee that they will live forever.  In eternal life there is no death, sickness, enemy, evil, or sin.  When we don't know Christ, we make choices as though this life is all we have.  In reality, this life is just the introduction to eternity.  Receive this new life by faith and begin to evaluate all that happens from an eternal perspective.  To believe is more than intellectual agreement that Jesus is God.  It means to put our trust and confidence in him that he alone can save us.  It is to put Christ in charge of our present plans and eternal destiny.  Believing is both trusting his words as reliable, and relying on him for the power to change.  If you have never trusted Christ, let this promise of everlasting life be yours--and believe.

3:18  People often try to protect themselves from their fears by putting their faith in something they do or have:  good deeds, skill or intelligence, money or possessions.  But only God can save us from the one thing we really need to fear--eternal condemnation.  We believe in God by recognizing the insufficiency of our own efforts to find salvation and by asking him to do his work in us.  When Jesus talks about unbelievers, he means those who reject or ignore him completely, not those who have momentary doubts. 

3:19-21   Many people don't want their lives exposed to God's light because they are afraid of what will be revealed.  They don't want to be changed.  Don't be surprised when these same people are threatened by your desire to obey God and do what is right, because they are afraid that the light in you may expose some of the darkness in their lives. Rather than giving in to discouragement, keep praying that they will come to see how much better it is to live in light than darkness.

3:25   Some people look for points of disagreement so they can sow seeds of discord, discontent, and doubt. John the Baptist ended this theological argument by focusing on his devotion to Christ.  It is divisive to try to force others to believe our way.  Instead, let's witness about what Christ has done for us.  How can anyone argue with us about that?

They came to John and said to him, "Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan--the one you testified about--well, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him."
To this John replied, "A man can receive only what is given him from heaven.
You yourselves can testify that I said, `I am not the Christ  but am sent ahead of him.'
The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom's voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete.
He must become greater; I must become less.
"The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all.
He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony.
The man who has accepted it has certified that God is truthful.
For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God  gives the Spirit without limit.
The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands.
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him."

John 3:26-36


3:26   John the Baptist's disciples were disturbed because people were following Jesus instead of John.  It is easy to grow jealous of the popularity of another person's ministry.  But we must remember that our true mission is to influence people to follow Christ, not us.

3:27   Why did John the Baptist continue to baptize after Jesus came onto the scene?  Why didn't he become a disciple too?  John explained that because God had given him his work, he had to continue it until God called him to do something else.  John's main purpose was to point people to Christ.  Even with Jesus beginning his own ministry, John could still turn people to Jesus.

3:30   John's willingness to decrease in importance shows unusual humility.  Pastors and other Christian leaders can be tempted to focus more on the success of their ministries than on Christ.  Beware of those who put more emphasis on their own achievements than on God's kingdom.  

3:31-35   Jesus' testimony was trustworthy because he had come from heaven and was speaking of what he had seen there.  His words were the very words of God.  Your whole spiritual life depends on your answer to one question, Who is Jesus Christ?  If you accept Jesus as only a prophet or teacher, you have to reject his teaching, for he claimed to be God's Son, even God himself.  The heartbeat of John's Gospel is the dynamic truth that Jesus Christ is God's Son, the Messiah, the Savior, who was from the beginning and will continue to live forever.  This same Jesus has invited us to accept him and live with him eternally.  When we understand who Jesus is, we are compelled to believe what he said.

3:34  God's Spirit was upon Jesus without limit or measure.  Thus Jesus was the highest revelation of God to humanity (Hebrews 1:2).

3:36   Jesus says that those who believe in him have (not will have) everlasting life.  To receive eternal life is to join in God's life, which by nature is eternal.  Thus, eternal life begins at the moment of spiritual rebirth.  John, the author of this Gospel, has been demonstrating that Jesus is the true Son of God.  Jesus sets before us the greatest choice in life.  We are responsible to decide today whom we will obey (Joshua 24:15), and God wants us to choose him and life (Deuteronomy 30:15-20).  The wrath of God is God's final judgment and rejection of the sinner.  To put off the choice is to choose not to follow Christ.  Indecision is a fatal decision. 

The Pharisees heard that Jesus was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John,
although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples.
When the Lord learned of this, he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.
Now he had to go through Samaria.
So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph.
Jacob's well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour.
When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, "Will you give me a drink?"
(His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
The Samaritan woman said to him, "You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?" (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.
John 4:1-9


4:1-3   Already opposition was rising against Jesus, especially from the Pharisees.  They resented Jesus' popularity as well as his message, which challenged much of their teachings.  Because Jesus was just beginning his ministry, it wasn't yet time to confront these leaders openly; so he left Jerusalem and traveled north toward Galilee.

4:4  After the northern kingdom, with its capital at Samaria, fell to the Assyrians, many Jews were deported to Assyria, and foreigners were brought in to settle the land and help keep the peace (2 Kings 17:24).  The intermarriage between those foreigners and the remaining Jews resulted in a mixed race, impure in the opinion of Jews who lived in the southern kingdom.  Thus the pure Jews hated this mixed race called Samaritans because they felt that their fellow Jews who had intermarried had betrayed their people and nation.  The Samaritans had set up an alternate center for worship on Mount Gerizim (4:20) to parallel the temple at Jerusalem, but it had been destroyed 150 years earlier.  The Jews did everything they could to avoid traveling through Samaria.  But Jesus had no reason to live by such cultural restrictions.  The route through Samaria was shorter, and that was the route he took.

4:5-7   Jacob's well was on the property owned by Jacob (Genesis 33:18, 19); it was not a spring-fed well, but a well into which water seeped from rain and dew, collecting at the bottom.  Wells were almost always located outside the city along the main road.  Twice each day, morning and evening, women came to draw water.  This woman came at noon, however, probably to avoid meeting people who knew her reputation.  Jesus gave this woman an extraordinary message about fresh and pure water that would quench her spiritual thirst forever.

4:7-9   This woman (1) was a Samaritan, a member of the hated mixed race, (2) was known to be living in sin, and (3) was in a public place.  No respectable Jewish man would talk to a woman under such circumstances.  But Jesus did.  The gospel is for every person, no matter what his or her race, social position, or past sins.  We must be prepared to share this gospel at any time, and in any place.  Jesus crossed all barriers to share the gospel, and we who follow him must do no less.

Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water."
"Sir," the woman said, "you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water?
Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?"
Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,
but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."
The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water so that I won't get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water."
He told her, "Go, call your husband and come back."
"I have no husband," she replied. Jesus said to her, "You are right when you say you have no husband.
The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true."
"Sir," the woman said, "I can see that you are a prophet.
John 4:10-19


4:10   What did Jesus mean by living water? In the Old Testament, many verses speak of thirsting after God as one thirsts for water (Psalm 42:1; Isaiah 55:1; Jeremiah 2:13; Zechariah 13:1).  God is called the fountain of life (Psalm 36:9) and the spring of living water (Jeremiah 17:13).  In saying he would bring living water that could forever quench a person's thirst for God, Jesus was claiming to be the Messiah. Only the Messiah could give this gift that satisfies the soul's desire.

4:13-15   Many spiritual functions parallel physical functions.  As our bodies hunger and thirst, so do our souls.  But our souls need spiritual food and water.  The woman confused the two kinds of water, perhaps because no one had ever talked with her about her spiritual hunger before.  We would not think of depriving our bodies of food and water when they hunger or thirst.  Why then should we deprive our souls?  The living Word, Jesus Christ, and the written Word, the Bible, can satisfy our hungry and thirsty souls.

4:15   The woman mistakenly believed that she received the water Jesus offered, she would not have to return to the well each day.  She was interested in Jesus' message because she thought it could make life easier.  But if that were the case, people would accept Christ's message for the wrong reasons.  Christ did not come to take away challenges, but to change us on the inside and to empower us to deal with problems from God's perspective.  The woman did not immediately understand what Jesus was talking about.  It takes time to accept something that changes the very foundations of your life.  Jesus allowed the woman time to ask questions and put pieces together for herself.  Sharing the gospel will not  always have immediate results.  When you ask people to let Jesus change their lives, give them time to weigh the matter.

4:16-19   When this woman discovered that Jesus knew all about her private life, she quickly changed the subject.  Often people become uncomfortable when the conversation is too close to home, and they try to talk about something else.  As we witness, we should gently guide the conversation back to Christ.  His presence exposes sin and makes people squirm, but only Christ can forgive sins and give new life.

Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem."
Jesus declared, "Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.
You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.
Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.
God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."
The woman said, "I know that Messiah" (called Christ) "is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us."
Then Jesus declared, "I who speak to you am he."
Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, "What do you want?" or "Why are you talking with her?"
Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people,
"Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ ?"
They came out of the town and made their way toward him.
Meanwhile his disciples urged him, "Rabbi, eat something."
But he said to them, "I have food to eat that you know nothing about."
Then his disciples said to each other, "Could someone have brought him food?"
"My food," said Jesus, "is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.
Do you not say, `Four months more and then the harvest'? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.
Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together.
Thus the saying `One sows and another reaps' is true.
I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor."
John 4:20-38


4:20-24   The woman brought up a popular theological issue--the correct place to worship.  But her question was a smoke screen to keep Jesus away from her deepest need.  Jesus directed the conversation to a much more important point: the location of worship is not nearly as important as the attitude of the worshipers.

4:21-24   God is spirit means he is not a physical being limited to one place.  He is present everywhere and he can be worshiped anywhere at any time.  It is not where we worship that counts, but how we worship.  Is your worship genuine and true?  Do you have the Holy Spirit's help?  How does the Holy Spirit help us worship?  The Holy Spirit prays for us (Romans 8:26), teaches us the words of Christ, and tells us we are loved (Romans 5:5).

4:22   When Jesus said, salvation is from the Jews, he meant that only through the Jewish Messiah would the whole world find salvation.  God had promised that through the Jewish race the whole earth would be blessed (Genesis 12:3).  The Old Testament prophets had called the Jews to be a light to the other nations of the world, bringing them to a knowledge of God; and they had predicted the Messiah's coming.  The woman at the well may have known of these passages and was expecting the Messiah, but she didn't realize that she was talking to him!

4:34   The food about which Jesus was speaking was his spiritual nourishment.  It includes more than Bible study, prayer, and attending church.  Spiritual nourishment also comes from doing God's will and helping to bring his work of salvation to completion.  We are nourished not only by what we take in, but also by what we give out for God.  In 17:4, Jesus refers to completing God's work on earth.

4:35   Sometimes Christians excuse themselves from witnessing by saying that their family or friends aren't ready to believe.  Jesus, however, makes it clear that around us a continual harvest waits to be reaped.  Don't let Jesus find you making excuses.  Look around.  You will find people ready to hear God's Word.

4:36-38   The wages Jesus offers are the joy of working for him and seeing the harvest of believers.  These wages come to sower and reaper alike because both find joy in seeing new believers come into Christ's kingdom.  The phrase others have done the hard work (4:8) may refer to the Old Testament prophets and to John the Baptist, who paved the way for the gospel.

Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony, "He told me everything I ever did."
So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days.
And because of his words many more became believers.
They said to the woman, "We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world."
After the two days he left for Galilee.
(Now Jesus himself had pointed out that a prophet has no honor in his own country.)
When he arrived in Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him. They had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, for they also had been there.
Once more he visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine. And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum.
When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death.
"Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders," Jesus told him, "you will never believe."
The royal official said, "Sir, come down before my child dies."
Jesus replied, "You may go. Your son will live." The man took Jesus at his word and departed.
While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living.
When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, "The fever left him yesterday at the seventh hour."
Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, "Your son will live." So he and all his household believed.
This was the second miraculous sign that Jesus performed, having come from Judea to Galilee.
John 4:39-54


4:39   The Samaritan woman immediately shared her experience with others.  Despite her reputation, many took her invitation and came out to meet Jesus.  Perhaps there are sins in our past of which we're ashamed.  But Christ changes us.  As people see these changes. they become curious.  Use these opportunities to introduce them to Christ.

4:46-49   This royal official was probably an officer in Herod's service.  He had walked 20 miles to see Jesus and addressed him as Sir, putting himself under Jesus even though he had legal authority over Jesus.

4:48   This miracle was more than a favor to one official; it was a sign to all the people.  John's Gospel was written to all mankind to urge faith in Christ.  Here a government official had faith that Jesus could do what he claimed.  The official believed; then he saw a miraculous sign.

4:50   This government official not only believed Jesus could heal; he also obeyed Jesus by returning home, thus demonstrating his faith.  It isn't enough for us to say we believe that Jesus can take care of our problems.  We need to act as if he can.  When you pray about a need or problem, live as though you believe Jesus can do what he says.

4:51  Jesus' miracles were not mere illusions; the product of wishful thinking.  Although the official's son was 20 miles away, he was healed when Jesus spoke the word.  Distance was no problem because Christ has mastery over space.  We can never put so much space between ourselves and Christ that he can no longer help us.

4:53   Notice how the official's faith grew.  First, he believed enough to ask Jesus to help his son.  Second, he believed Jesus' assurance that his son would live, and he acted on it.  Third, he and his whole house believed in Jesus.  Faith is a gift that grows as we use it.

John 5

Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews.
Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda  and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades.
Here a great number of disabled people used to lie--the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. 
One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years.
When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, "Do you want to get well?"
"Sir," the invalid replied, "I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me."
Then Jesus said to him, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk."
At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. The day on which this took place was a Sabbath,
and so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, "It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat."
But he replied, "The man who made me well said to me, `Pick up your mat and walk.'"
So they asked him, "Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?"
The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there.

John 5:1-13


5:1   Three feasts required all Jewish males to come to Jerusalem (!) the Feast of Passover and Unleavened Bread, (@) the Feast of Weeks (also called Pentecost), and (3) the Feast of Tabernacles.

5:6   After 38 years, this man's problem had become a way of life.  No one had ever helped him.  He had no hope of ever being healed and no desire to help himself.  The man's situation looked hopeless.  But no matter how trapped you feel in your infirmities, God can minister to your deepest needs.  Don't let a problem or hardship  cause you to lose your hope.  God may have special work for you to do in spite of your condition, or even because of it.  Many have ministered effectively to hurting people because they have triumphed over their own hurts.

5:10   According to the Pharisees, carrying a mat on the Sabbath was work and was therefore unlawful.  It did not break an Old Testament law, but the Pharisees' interpretation of God's command to remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy (Exodus 20:6).  This was just one of hundreds of rules they had added to the Old Testament law.  A man who hadn't walked for 38 years had been healed, but the Pharisees were more concerned about their petty rules than the life and health of a human being.  It is easy to get so caught up in our man-made structures and rules that we forget the people involved.  Are your guidelines for living God-made or man-made?  Are they helping people, or have they become needless stumbling blocks?

Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, "See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you."
The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.
So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted him.
Jesus said to them, "My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working."
For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
Jesus gave them this answer: "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.
For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these.
For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it.
Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son,
that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.
"I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.
John 5:14-24


5:14   This man had been lame, or paralyzed, and suddenly he could walk.  This was a great miracle.  But he needed an even greater miracle--to have his sins forgiven.  The man was delighted to be physically healed, but he had to turn from his sin and seek God's forgiveness to be spiritually healed.  God's forgiveness is the greatest gift you will ever receive.  Don't neglect his gracious offer.

5:16   The Jewish leaders saw both a mighty miracle of healing and a broken rule.  They threw the miracle aside as they focused their attention on the broken rule, because the rule was more important to them than the miracle. God is prepared to work in our lives, but we can shut out his miracles by limiting our views about how he works.

5:17   If God stopped every kind of work on the Sabbath, nature would fall into chaos, and sin would overrun the world.  Genesis 2:2 says that God rested on the the seventh day, but this can't mean that he stopped doing good.  Jesus wanted to teach that when the opportunity to do good presents itself, it should not be ignored, even on the Sabbath.  Jesus was identifying himself with God, his Father.  There could be no doubt as to his claim to be God.  Jesus does not leave us the option to believe in God while ignoring God's Son.  The Pharisees also called God their Father, but they realized Jesus was claiming a unique relationship with him.  In response to Jesus'  claim, the Pharisees had two choices; to believe in him, or to accuse him of blasphemy.  They chose the second.

5:19-23   Because of his unity with God, Jesus lived as God wanted him to live.  Because of our identification with Jesus, we must honor him and live as he wants us to live.  The questions  what would Jesus do?  and what would Jesus have me do?  may help us make the right choices.

5:24   Eternal life--living forever with God---begins when you accept Jesus Christ as Savior.  At that moment, new life begins in you (2 Corinthians 5:17).  It is a completed transaction.  You still will face physical death, but when Christ returns again, your body will be resurrected to live forever  (1 Corinthians 15).

"I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.
I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.
For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself.
And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.
"Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice
and come out--those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.
By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.
"If I testify about myself, my testimony is not valid.
There is another who testifies in my favor, and I know that his testimony about me is valid.
"You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth.
Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved.
John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light.
John 5:25-35


5:25   In saying that the dead will hear his voice, Jesus was talking about the spiritually dead who hear, understand, and accept him.  Those who accept Jesus, the Word, will have eternal life.  Jesus was also talking about the physically dead.  He raised several dead people while he was on earth, and at his second coming all the dead in Christ will rise to meet him (1 Thessalonians 4:16).

5:26   God is the source and Creator of life, for there is no life apart from God, here or hereafter.  The life in us is a gift from him (see Deuteronomy 30:20; Psalm 36:9).  Because Jesus is eternally existent with God, the Creator, he too is the life through whom we may live eternally.

5:27   The Old Testament mentioned three signs of the coming Messiah.  In this chapter, John shows that Jesus has fulfilled all three signs.  All power and authority are given to him as the Son of Man (Daniel 7:13, 14).  The lame and sick are healed (Isaiah 35:6; Jeremiah 31:8, 9).  The dead are raised to life (Deuteronomy 32:39; 1 Samuel 2:6;  2 Kings 5:7).

5:29   Those who have rebelled against Christ will be resurrected too, but to hear God's judgment against them and to be sentenced to eternity apart from him.  There are those who wish to live well on earth, ignore God, and then see death as a final rest.  Jesus does not allow unbelieving people to see death as the end of it all.  there is a judgment to face.

5:31  Jesus claimed to be equal with God (5:18), to give eternal life (5:24), and to judge sin (5:27).  These statements make it clear that Jesus was claiming to be divine--an almost unbelievable claim, but one that was supported by another witness, John the Baptist.

"I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the very work that the Father has given me to finish, and which I am doing, testifies that the Father has sent me.
And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form,
nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent.
You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me,
yet you refuse to come to me to have life.
"I do not accept praise from men,
but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts.
I have come in my Father's name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him.
How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God [34]?
"But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set.
If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me.
But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?"
John 5:36-47


5:39, 40   The religious leaders knew what the Bible said but failed to apply its words to their lives.  They knew the teachings of the Scriptures but failed to see the Messiah to whom the Scriptures pointed.  They knew the rules but missed the Savior.  Entrenched in their own religious system, they refused to let the Son of God change their lives.  Don't become so involved in religion that you miss Christ.

5:41   Whose praise do you seek?  The religious leaders enjoyed great prestige in Israel, but their stamp of approval meant nothing to Jesus.  He was concerned about God's approval. This is a good principle for us.  If even the highest officials in the world approve of our actions and God does not, we should be concerned.  But if God approves, even though others don't, we should be content.

5:45   The Pharisees prided themselves on being the true followers of their ancestor Moses.  They were trying to follow every one of his laws to the letter, and they even added some of their own.  Jesus'  warning that Moses would accuse them stung them to fury.  Moses wrote about Jesus (Genesis 3:15; Numbers 21:9; 24:17; Deuteronomy 18:15), yet the religious leaders refused to believe Jesus when he came.

Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias),
and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the miraculous signs he had performed on the sick.
Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples.
The Jewish Passover Feast was near.
When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, "Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?"
He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.
Philip answered him, "Eight months' wages  would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!"
Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, spoke up,
"Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?"
Jesus said, "Have the people sit down." There was plenty of grass in that place, and the men sat down, about five thousand of them.
Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.
When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, "Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted."
So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.
After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, "Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world."
Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.
When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake,
where they got into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum. By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them.
John 6:1-17


6:5   If anyone knew where to get food, it would have been Philip because he was from Bethsaida, a town about nine miles away (1:44).  Jesus was testing Philip to strengthen his faith.  By asking for a human solution (knowing that there was none), Jesus highlighted the powerful and miraculous act that he was about to perform. 

6:5-7   When Jesus asked Philip where they could buy a great amount of bread, Philip started assessing the probable cost.  Jesus wanted to teach him that financial resources are not the most important ones.  We can limit what God does in us by assuming  what is and is not possible.  Is there some impossible task that you believe God wants you to do?  Don't let your estimate of what can't be done keep you from taking on the task.  God can do the miraculous; trust him to provide the resources.

6:8, 9   The disciples are contrasted with the youngster who brought what he had.   They certainly had more resources than the boy, but they knew they didn't have enough, so they didn't give anything at all.  The boy gave what little he had, and it made all the difference.  If we offer nothing to God, he will have nothing to use.  But he can take what little we have and turn it into something great.  In performing his miracles, Jesus usually preferred to work through people.  Here he took what a young child offered and used it to accomplish one of the most spectacular miracles recorded in the Gospels.  Age is no barrier to Christ.  Never think you are too young or too old to be of service to him.

6:13   There is a lesson in the leftovers.  God gives in abundance.  He takes whatever we can offer him in time, ability, or resources and multiplies its effectiveness beyond our wildest expectations.  If you take the first step in making yourself available to God, he will show you how greatly you can be used to advance the work of his kingdom.

6:14   The Prophet is the one prophesied by Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15).

A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough.
When they had rowed three or three and a half miles,  they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were terrified.
But he said to them, "It is I; don't be afraid."
Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.
The next day the crowd that had stayed on the opposite shore of the lake realized that only one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not entered it with his disciples, but that they had gone away alone.
Then some boats from Tiberias landed near the place where the people had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks.
Once the crowd realized that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus.
When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, "Rabbi, when did you get here?"
Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.

John 6:18-26


6:18   The Sea of Galilee is 650 feet below sea level, 150 feet deep, and surrounded by hills.  These physical features make it subject to sudden windstorms that would cause extremely high waves.  Such storms were expected on this lake, but they were nevertheless frightening.  When Jesus came to the disciples during a storm, walking on the water (three and a half miles from shore), he told them not to be afraid.  We often face spiritual and emotional storms and feel tossed about like a small boat on a big lake.  In spite of terrifying circumstances, if we trust our lives to Christ for his safekeeping he will give us peace in any storm.

6:18, 19   The disciples, terrified, probably thought they were seeing a ghost (Mark 6:49).  But if they had thought about all they had already seen Jesus do, they could have accepted this miracle.  They were frightened--they didn't expect Jesus to come, and they weren't prepared for his help.  Faith is a mind-set that expects God to act.  When we act on this expectation, we can overcome our fears.

6:26   Jesus criticized the people who followed him only for the physical and temporal benefits and not for the satisfying of their spiritual hunger.  Many people use religion to gain prestige, comfort, or even political votes.  But those are self-centered motives.  True believers follow Jesus simply because they know he has the truth and his way is the way to live.

Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval."
Then they asked him, "What must we do to do the works God requires?"
Jesus answered, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent."
So they asked him, "What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do?
Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: `He gave them bread from heaven to eat.' "
Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven.
For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world."
"Sir," they said, "from now on give us this bread."
Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.
But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe.
All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.
For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.
And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.
For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day."
John 6:27-40


6:28, 29  Many sincere seekers for God are puzzled about what he wants them to do.  The religions of the world are mankind's attempts to answer this question.  But Jesus' reply is brief and simple; we must believe on him whom God has sent.  Satisfying God does not come from the work we do, but from whom we believe.  The first step is accepting that Jesus is who he claims to be.  All spiritual development is built on this affirmation.  Declare to Jesus, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:16), and embark on a life of belief that is satisfying to your Creator.

6:35   People eat bread to satisfy physical hunger and to sustain physical life.  We can satisfy spiritual hunger and sustain spiritual life only by a right relationship with Jesus Christ.  No wonder he called himself the bread of life.  But bread must be eaten to sustain life, and Christ must be invited into our daily walk to sustain spiritual life.

6:37, 38  Jesus did not work independently of God the Father, but in union with him.  This should give us more assurance of being welcomed into God's presence and being protected by him.  Jesus' purpose was to do the will of God, not to satisfy Jesus' human desires.  When we follow Jesus, we should have the same purpose.

6:39   Jesus said he would not lose even one person whom the Father had given him.  Thus anyone who makes a sincere commitment to believe in Jesus Christ as Savior is secure in God's promise of eternal life.  Christ will not let his people be overcome by Satan and lose their salvation (see also Philippians 1:6). 

6:40   Those who put their faith in Christ will be resurrected from physical death to eternal life with God when Christ comes again (see 1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16).

At this the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, "I am the bread that came down from heaven."
They said, "Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, `I came down from heaven'?"
"Stop grumbling among yourselves," Jesus answered.
"No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.
It is written in the Prophets: `They will all be taught by God.' Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me.
No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father.
I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life.
I am the bread of life.
Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died.
But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die.
I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world."
John 6:41-51


6:41   When John says Jews, he is referring to the Jewish leaders who were hostile to Jesus, not to Jews in general.  John himself was a Jew, and so was Jesus.  The religious leaders grumbled because they could not accept Jesus' claim of divinity.  They saw him only as a carpenter from Nazareth.  They refused to believe that Jesus was God's divine Son, and they could not tolerate his message.  Many people reject Christ because they say they cannot believe he is the Son of God.  In reality, the demands that Christ makes for their loyalty and obedience are what they can't accept.  So to protect themselves from the message, they reject the messenger.

6:44  God, not man, plays the most active role in salvation.  When someone chooses to believe in Jesus Christ as Savior, he or she does so only in response to the urging of God's Holy Spirit.  God does the urging; then we decide whether or not to believe.  Thus no one can believe in Jesus without God's help.

6:45   Jesus was alluding to an Old Testament view of the Messianic kingdom in which all people are taught directly by God (Isaiah 54:13; Jeremiah 31:31-34).  He was stressing the importance of not merely hearing, but learning.  We are taught by God through the Bible, our experiences, the thoughts the Holy Spirit brings, and relationships with other Christians.  Are you open to God's teaching?

6:47   Believes as used here means continues to believe.  We do not believe merely once; we keep on believing in and trusting Jesus.  The religious leaders frequently asked Jesus to prove to them why he was better than the prophets they already had.  Jesus here referred to the manna that Moses had given their ancestors in the desert (see Exodus 16).  This bread was physical and temporal.  The people ate it, and it sustained them for a day.  But they had to get more bread every day, and this bread could not keep them from dying.  Jesus, who is much greater than Moses, offers himself as the spiritual bread from heaven that satisfies completely and leads to eternal life.

6:51   How can Jesus give us his flesh as bread to eat?  To eat living bread means to accept Christ into our lives and become united with him.  We are united with Christ in two ways: (1) by believing in his death (the sacrifice of his flesh) and resurrection and (2) by devoting ourselves to living as he requires, depending on his teaching for guidance and trusting in the Holy Spirit for power.

Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?"
Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.
For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.
Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me.
This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever."
He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.
On hearing it, many of his disciples said, "This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?"
Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, "Does this offend you?
What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before!
The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit  and they are life.
Yet there are some of you who do not believe." For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him.
He went on to say, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him."
John 6:52-65


6:56   This was a shocking message--to eat flesh and drink blood sounded cannibalistic.  The idea of drinking any blood, let alone human blood, was repugnant to the religious leaders because the law forbade it (Leviticus 17:10, 11).  Jesus was not talking about literal blood, of course.  He was saying that his life had to become their own, but they could not accept this concept.  The apostle Paul later used the body and blood imagery in talking about communion (see Corinthians 11:23-26).

6:63, 65  The Holy Spirit gives spiritual life, without the work of the Holy Spirit we cannot even see our need for new life.  All spiritual renewal begins and ends with God.  He reveals truth to us, lives within us, and then enables us to respond to that truth.

From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
"You do not want to leave too, do you?" Jesus asked the Twelve.
Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.
We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God."
Then Jesus replied, "Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!"
(He meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, who, though one of the Twelve, was later to betray him.)
John 6:66-71


6:66     Why did Jesus' words cause many of his followers to desert him?  (1) They may have realized that he wasn't going to be the conquering Messiah-King they expected.  (2) He refused to give in to their self-centered requests. (3)  He emphasized faith, not deeds.  (4)  His teachings were difficult to understand, and some of his words were offensive.  As we grow in our faith, we may be tempted to turn away because Jesus' lessons are difficult.  Will your response be to give up, ignore certain teachings, or reject Christ?  Instead, ask God to show you what the teachings mean and how they apply to your life.  Then have the courage to act on God's truth.

6:67, 68   There is no middle ground with Jesus.  When he asked the disciples if they would also leave, he was showing that they could either accept or reject him.  Jesus was not trying to repel people with his teachings.  He was simply telling the truth.  The more the people heard Jesus' real message, the more they divided into two camps--the honest seekers who wanted to understand more, and those who rejected Jesus because they didn't like what they had heard.  After many of Jesus' followers had deserted him, he asked the 12 disciples if they were also going to leave.  Peter replied, To whom shall we go?  In his straightforward way, Peter answered for all of us--there is no other way.  Though there are many philosophies and self-styled authorities, Jesus alone has the words of eternal life.  People look everywhere for eternal life and miss Christ, the only source.  Stay with him, especially when you are confused or feel alone.

6:70  In response to Jesus' message, some people left, others stayed and truly believed, and some, like Judas, stayed but tried to use Jesus for personal gain.  Many people today turn away from Christ.  Others pretend to follow, going to church for status, approval of family and friends, or business contacts.  But there are only two real responses to Jesus--you either accept him or reject him.  How have you responded to Christ?

After this, Jesus went around in Galilee, purposely staying away from Judea because the Jews there were waiting to take his life.
But when the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles was near,
Jesus' brothers said to him, "You ought to leave here and go to Judea, so that your disciples may see the miracles you do.
No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world."
For even his own brothers did not believe in him.
Therefore Jesus told them, "The right time for me has not yet come; for you any time is right.
The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that what it does is evil.
You go to the Feast. I am not yet  going up to this Feast, because for me the right time has not yet come."
Having said this, he stayed in Galilee.
However, after his brothers had left for the Feast, he went also, not publicly, but in secret.
Now at the Feast the Jews were watching for him and asking, "Where is that man?"
Among the crowds there was widespread whispering about him. Some said, "He is a good man." Others replied, "No, he deceives the people."

John 7:1-12


7:2   The feast of Tabernacles is described in Leviticus 23:33.  This event occurred in October, about six months after the Passover celebration mentioned in John 6:2-5.  The feast commemorated the days when the Israelites wandered in the desert and lived in booths (Leviticus 23:43).

7:3-5   Jesus' brothers had a difficult time believing in him.  Some of these brothers would eventually become leaders in the church (James, for example), but for several years they were embarrassed by Jesus. After Jesus died and rose again, they finally believed.  We today have every reason to believe because we have the full record of Jesus' miracles, death, and resurrection.  We also have the evidence of what the gospel has done in people's lives through the centuries.  Don't miss this opportunity to believe in God's Son.

7:7   Because the world hated Jesus, we who follow him can expect that many people will hate us as well.  If circumstances are going too well, ask if you are following Christ as you should.  We can be grateful when life goes well, but we must make sure it is not at the cost of following Jesus halfheartedly or not at all.

7:10   Jesus came with the greatest gift ever offered, so why did he often act secretly?  The religious leaders hated him, and many would refuse his gift of salvation, no matter what he said or did.  The more Jesus taught and worked publicly, the more these leaders would cause trouble for him and his followers.  So it was necessary for Jesus to teach and work as quietly as possible.  Many people today have the privilege of teaching, preaching, and worshiping publicly with little persecution.  These believers should be grateful and make the most of their opportunities to proclaim the gospel.

13Others replied, "No, he deceives the people." But no one would say anything publicly about him for fear of the Jews.

Jesus Teaches at the Feast

14Not until halfway through the Feast did Jesus go up to the temple courts and begin to teach. 15The Jews were amazed and asked, "How did this man get such learning without having studied?"
16Jesus answered, "My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me. 17If anyone chooses to do God's will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. 18He who speaks on his own does so to gain honor for himself, but he who works for the honor of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him. 19Has not Moses given you the law? Yet not one of you keeps the law. Why are you trying to kill me?"
20"You are demon-possessed," the crowd answered. "Who is trying to kill you?"
21Jesus said to them, "I did one miracle, and you are all astonished. 22Yet, because Moses gave you circumcision (though actually it did not come from Moses, but from the patriarchs), you circumcise a child on the Sabbath. 23Now if a child can be circumcised on the Sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken, why are you angry with me for healing the whole man on the Sabbath? 24Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment."

John 7:13-24


Jesus Reveals Himself as a Disciple of God, Not of the Rabbis (7:14-24)

On the last day of the feast Jesus makes his startling claim to offer living water (7:37-39) and to be the light of the world (8:12). In the time between his secret entrance and dramatic conclusion he goes up to the temple and begins to teach (7:14). "What does this mean but a fulfillment of the prophecy, `The Lord whom ye seek shall suddenly come to his temple' (Mal 3:1)?" (Dodd 1953:351).

His teaching prompts the question, How did this man get such learning without having studied? (7:15). He had not studied under a rabbi, nor had he been in a rabbinic school. He did not support his teaching by appealing to recognized teachers, yet his teaching made use of rabbinic-style arguments, as is evident later in this section. In the Talmud (b. Sota 22a) it is said that the person who studied the Scriptures and even the Mishnah but yet "did not attend upon Rabbinical scholars" is no better than an 'am ha'arets--one of the "people of the land" who are cursed because they do not keep the law with the strictness of the Pharisees. This text from the Talmud is dated later than the New Testament, but the sentiment was current in the days of Jesus, and indeed it is reflected in this very story (7:49).

Although Jesus has not studied under a rabbi, that does not mean he is on his own. Throughout the Gospel he is emphatic about his dependency on the Father. In this passage he agrees with the theory behind the rabbinic succession of teachers (v. 18) but says, My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me (v. 16). In saying this Jesus is claiming to be not just another rabbi, but rather a prophet whose teaching comes from God (v. 17). Jesus is a disciple of God, not of a rabbi.

How is such a claim to be assessed? Jesus and the Jewish opponents agreed that Scripture is the word of God, but whose interpretation of Scripture is correct? Jesus does not point to confirmation from external sources. He points rather to the internal disposition of the individual, a heart that is God-centered: If anyone chooses to do God's will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own (v. 17). One who is centered in God rather than in oneself will be able to recognize God's voice in a teacher come from God. To choose to do God's will is not just a matter of moral purity as such; it is a hungering and thirsting after righteousness, a seeking first the kingdom. Such a heart is open to God, committed to him and his ways and willing to act on what is revealed. It is a heart like Jesus' own heart--like is known by like (cf. Beasley-Murray 1987:108).

Jesus spells out the alternative: He who speaks on his own does so to gain honor for himself (v. 18), or, more literally, "The one who speaks from himself seeks his own glory." One either speaks from God or one speaks from self, no matter how many external authorities are appealed to. One seeking God, who is caring for God's glory rather than one's own, such as Jesus refers to, is able to believe (5:44). Jesus', "humility and obedience allow him to speak with the authority of God" (Barrett 1978:318), and these are the same qualities that enable a person to recognize God's word in Jesus' teaching.

He then addresses the Jewish ideal behind the appeal to rabbinic authority: He who works for the honor of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him (v. 18). In this saying Jesus affirms the Jewish view of tradition. His disciples are to pass on faithfully what they have received from him (cf. Jn 15:27; 21:24; Mt 28:16-20) and to ensure that it continues to be passed on by faithful teachers (2 Tim 2:2). So the rabbinic ideal is not wrong, but it must be coupled with a heart that is open to God, in contact with God and guided by his Spirit.

This ideal is a true test of the character of the messenger, but it is not a guarantee of the truth of the message--that depends on the one who sends the messenger. If Jesus is a true messenger, passing on what he has received, then the opponents do not have a problem with him but with the one who sent him to deliver this message. Since God is the one who has sent Jesus, the opponents' alienation from God is again made clear.

The rabbinic teachers trace their teaching back to Moses himself, so Jesus turns from defending himself to attacking their claim to Moses (cf. 5:45-47). The foundation on which they build is wrong. Moses indeed gave them the law (v. 19); Moses was a faithful teacher who passed on what he received from God, not caring for his own glory but for the glory of the one who sent him. The issue is not with Moses and the law, it is with the opponents who do not keep the law (v. 19).

Jesus' charge that his opponents are not keeping the law turns up the heat of the debate. They believe Jesus does not keep the law, and now he says the same of them. Jesus brings two pieces of evidence to show they fail to keep the law. The first piece of evidence is that they desire to kill him (Jn 5:18; 7:1). Jesus could be referring to a violation of the sixth commandment (Ex 20:13), but something much more profound is going on. If Jesus is a false prophet, he deserves to die according to the law (Deut 13:5). But Jesus is actually the one of whom Moses wrote in the law (Jn 1:45; 5:46). So their desire to put Jesus to death shows they violate their own law because the law itself witnesses to Jesus.

While Jesus is addressing the whole crowd, he is speaking primarily to his opponents (v. 21). Most of the people listening would be either citizens of Jerusalem or pilgrims present for the feast. The Jerusalemites are aware of the authorities' desire to kill Jesus (v. 25), so only the out-of-towners would not know anything of the controversy surrounding Jesus. Some of these pilgrims respond, saying, You are demon-possessed. . . . Who is trying to kill you? (v. 20). Here is another example of the people's failure to recognize who Jesus is. The very Word incarnate, who is the truth, is said to be wrong about something which is common knowledge to the Jerusalemites. Most commentators view the crowd's saying Jesus is demon-possessed as their way of saying, "You're nuts." Perhaps this is all that the crowd intended. If so, they are still completely clueless, ignorant of both Jesus and the Jewish authorities. But the larger context is the debate about the source of Jesus' teaching. The charge of being a false teacher would put one in league with the devil. So we may have another of John's double-entendres: the crowd would mean "you're nuts," but the opponents would mean something more sinister (cf. 8:48).

Jesus reminds the opponents of their response to his healing on the sabbath (v. 21). They had been astonished, not in the sense of giving God glory, but in the sense that they were scandalized, some to the point of seeking his death (5:16-18; Schnackenburg 1980b:134). This response is unjustified even on the basis of the law, as Jesus now demonstrates in good rabbinic fashion.

Jesus begins by bringing forth a second piece of evidence that shows they do not keep the law. Moses gave them circumcision (Lev 12:3), though in fact it was a sign of the earlier covenant, from Abraham on (Gen 17:10-14). According to the law a male child is to be circumcised on the eighth day after birth, but what happens if the eighth day is a sabbath? Circumcision takes precedence over the sabbath. "They may perform on the Sabbath all things that are needful for circumcision: excision, tearing, sucking [the wound], and putting thereon a bandage and cummin" (m. shabbat 19:2). Thus, in order to keep the law regarding circumcision they must do what is not otherwise lawful on the sabbath.

They would not have viewed this as a breaking of the law since this order of precedence among the commands existed precisely in order to keep the law (cf. Carson 1991:315). Therefore Jesus says the "work" of circumcision is performed on the sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken (v. 23). Jesus questions them, saying, if this work is allowed in order to keep the law, why are you angry with me for healing the whole man on the Sabbath? (v. 23). In other words, he is also working with an order of precedence, and his activity on the sabbath should be viewed from this perspective rather than as a breaking of the law.

Jesus is using a "how much more" type of argument, which was popular in the ancient world, not least among the rabbis. Indeed, at the time John was writing, this very point was being argued by rabbis using the same type of argument. Rabbi Eliezer (c. A.D. 90) said, "If one supersedes the sabbath on account of one of his members [in circumcision], should he not supersede the sabbath for his whole body if in danger of death?" (t. shabbat 15:16; cf. b. Yoma 85b). So there is an order of precedence not only between commands in the law, but for the sake of saving a life. Jesus, however, goes even further and says not only does the saving of a life take precedence, but so does doing good (Mt 12:12 par. Mk 3:4 par. Lk 6:9; cf. Acts 10:38), which includes healing. This is an application of his principle that "the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath" (Mk 2:27). If this principle is accepted, then Jesus is not a lawbreaker.

Indeed, circumcision is a sign of the covenant, and the covenant itself is about doing good, about acting in keeping with God's own character of love and mercy. Jesus makes this connection when he says, literally, "Because of this Moses gave you circumcision" (v. 22). The "this" refers back to Jesus' deed of healing on the sabbath (v. 21). So Jesus' form of sabbath observance--healing and doing good--was the very purpose for which Moses gave them circumcision. "Jesus' attitude is not a sentimental liberalizing of a harsh and unpractical law . . . nor the masterful dealing of an opponent of the Law as such; it is rather the accomplishment of the redemptive purpose of God toward which the Law had pointed" (Barrett 1978:320-21). Thus it is not Jesus but his opponents who are going against Moses. They are breaking the law by their observance of the sabbath because their observance does not include doing good.

Jesus concludes by telling them, Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment (v. 24). He is using language from Moses' teaching regarding the responsibility of the judges and officers of the people (Deut 16:18). The opponents are not acting in accordance with this injunction, and thus their disobedience is exposed yet again. The right judgment of which Moses speaks includes such things as refraining from showing partiality and taking bribes. Jesus' opponents are not blinded by bribes (cf. Deut 16:19) but are blinded by receiving glory from one another (Jn 5:44). They are observing the letter of the law, but do not understand what the law is really about, neither in its witness to Jesus nor in its goal of expressing God's own love and mercy in the life of God's people. Making a right judgment (he dikaia krisis) is dependent on seeking God's will and not one's own (5:30). They lack this disposition; they are too shallow. They have no depth in themselves and thus cannot recognize God at work among them. God himself is the one who is dikaios ("right," "righteous"; cf. Jn 17:25; 1 Jn 2:29; 3:7; Rev 16:5), so their lack of right judgment is yet another indication not only of their law breaking but of their alienation from God.

This call to right judgment is a challenge to each of us, for we are all guilty at times of judging by appearances. The only way to avoid such shallowness is to be united with God and to share in his truth about Jesus and about our own lives. This requires that we will God's will (7:17), which means God's will as God knows it, not as our prejudices and sins tailor it. To will God's will is to have a purity of heart and a clarity of vision that come through death to self. Until we have found our own heart (which lies deeper than our emotions and imagination) and made contact with God there, we will be in danger of judging by appearances instead of with right judgment.

Is Jesus the Christ?

25At that point some of the people of Jerusalem began to ask, "Isn't this the man they are trying to kill? 26Here he is, speaking publicly, and they are not saying a word to him. Have the authorities really concluded that he is the Christ?  27But we know where this man is from; when the Christ comes, no one will know where he is from."
28Then Jesus, still teaching in the temple courts, cried out, "Yes, you know me, and you know where I am from. I am not here on my own, but he who sent me is true. You do not know him, 29but I know him because I am from him and he sent me."
30At this they tried to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his time had not yet come. 31Still, many in the crowd put their faith in him. They said, "When the Christ comes, will he do more miraculous signs than this man?"
32The Pharisees heard the crowd whispering such things about him. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees sent temple guards to arrest him.
33Jesus said, "I am with you for only a short time, and then I go to the one who sent me. 34You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come."
35The Jews said to one another, "Where does this man intend to go that we cannot find him? Will he go where our people live scattered among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks? 36What did he mean when he said, 'You will look for me, but you will not find me,' and 'Where I am, you cannot come'?"

John 7:25-36


Jesus Reveals Himself as the Messiah Who Has Come from God and Who Is Returning to God (7:25-36)

The people of Jerusalem now question Jesus' messiahship on the basis of where he has come from. They think that the Messiah's origin will be unknown; so since they know where Jesus is from, he is disqualified (v. 27). Later we will hear of others among the crowd who think the Messiah's origin is known and who disqualify Jesus because he comes from Galilee (vv. 41-42). Neither of these opinions is accurate, which reveals the confusion and ignorance of the people, who, like the opponents, are judging by appearances rather than with right judgment.

Jesus' teaching about the sabbath and his reference to the people seeking to kill him (vv. 19-23) leads some Jerusalemites to conclude that he is the man the authorities are trying to kill (v. 25). They realize Jesus is claiming to be the Messiah (v. 26), so the fact that he is speaking publicly and without interference from the authorities raises the question of whether the authorities have concluded that Jesus is the Messiah after all. If false teaching is not opposed, then people get the impression that either it is not false or it is not significant.

So the people think the authorities might be confused. We will learn later (chap. 9) that the authorities themselves are indeed divided over Jesus. But these Jerusalemites assume the authorities could not have concluded that Jesus is the Messiah because he does not fit their own messianic expectations: But we know where this man is from; when the Christ comes, no one will know where he is from (v. 27). They seem to have in mind the idea that the Messiah would be hidden until his public debut (cf. Beasley-Murray 1987:110-11). As a Jew in the second century reportedly put it, "Christ--if he has indeed been born, and exists anywhere--is unknown, and does not even know himself, and has no power until Elijah come to anoint him, and make him manifest to all" (Justin Martyr Dialogue with Trypho the Jew 8).

Among the apocalypticists the origin of the Messiah had more profound implications. In two texts that probably come from late in the first century, about the same time John is finalizing his gospel, we read of the mysterious origin of the Messiah in God and his hiddenness there (1 Enoch 48:7; 4 Ezra 13:51-52). The figures depicted in these texts may not be divine, but they are more than human (J. Collins 1995:208). Such notions build on earlier reflections regarding divine Wisdom. For example, Job 28 says the place of Wisdom is hid from all creatures; only God knows where Wisdom is to be found.

In Jesus we see the fulfillment of this motif from the wisdom and apocalyptic writings. The one hidden with God has now come forth and revealed himself. In response to the Jerusalemites' musings Jesus cried out (krazo) in the temple (Jn 7:28), an expression John uses for significant proclamation, even revelation (1:15; 7:37; 12:44; cf. Bultmann 1971:75 n. 1). He begins by saying, Yes, you know me, and you know where I am from (v. 28). In keeping with good Jewish reckoning, a person is usually known by where he or she comes from (Talbert 1992:146). So to know where Jesus is from is to know him. But this is bitingly ironic since their knowledge of him as a Nazarene misses the most significant truth of his origin; they are judging by appearances. For in fact they do not really know where he is from because he is from the Father. They do not know his ultimate origin, and therefore they do not really know him.Jesus continues by speaking again of the Father and of his dependency on the Father. He has just said that he does not speak from himself (ap' emautou, 7:17-18) and that fact establishes that he is true (alethes, v. 18). Now he says that he has not come on my own (ap' emautou, v. 28) and that the one who sent him is true (alethinos, v. 28). For John, truth is objective reality--that which corresponds to reality and reveals it (cf. Dodd 1953:177). The Father is the source and standard of all truth, so truth is based on relationship with him. Jesus has such a relationship, and his opponents do not, as Jesus says flat out: You do not know him, but I know him because I am from him and he sent me (vv. 28-29).

The people of Jerusalem have raised the question of Jesus' origin. This is a good issue to raise, for instead of disqualifying him, the answer is in fact one of the main witnesses to who he is and to the validity of his message and deeds. Like the Son of Man of 1 Enoch, Jesus has come forth from the presence of the Lord. Like the prophets of old, he has been sent by God with God's own message. The issue at stake is knowledge, as the use of the word know seven times in verses 26-29 indicates. These Jerusalemites claim to have knowledge, but they do not. Jesus is the one who knows God, knows who he himself is and knows the truth about his opponents. The opponents are out of touch with reality.

Jesus, the truth incarnate, has just spoken to these people of Jerusalem, and they respond by rejecting him: At this they tried to seize him (v. 30). Presumably they were intending to take him to the authorities, who, as they knew, wanted to kill Jesus (v. 25). In any case, they are unable to carry out their will because it is not God's will: his time ["hour," hora] had not yet come (v. 30; cf. 2:4). These people, like Jesus' brothers (7:5-7), are of the world and have no sense of God's sovereign plan, which is at work among them. Their action confirms that they do not will to do God's will (v. 17). Again the judgment is taking place, for the light is shining but these people are preferring darkness.

These Jerusalemites turn against Jesus, yet many in the crowd are more responsive and put their faith in him on the basis of the signs they have seen (v. 31). It is unclear which signs they are referring to. John has only recounted five signs up to this point (changing water into wine, healing the royal official's son, healing the paralytic at the pool on the sabbath, feeding the five thousand and walking on water), but he has indicated that there were many other signs as well (2:23; 3:2). Signs are certainly intended to lead people to faith, but it is unclear whether the faith of these people is solid. They may be like those in the next chapter who believe but whose faith is not good soil for the seed (see comment on 8:31).

Having seen his impact on the crowd the Pharisees get together with the chief priests and send servants to arrest Jesus (v. 32). We know this attempt will be no more successful than the crowd's effort to seize Jesus (v. 30; the word piazo is translated seized in v. 30 and arrest in v. 32). But John does not tell us whether they seize him until after he relates Jesus' teaching about his departure (the great invitation to come to him for living water) and describes further the division of the people (v. 45). John's storytelling conveys how inconsequential their threat is. Those who seem to have such power, whom the people greatly fear (note their whispering in v. 32), are not able to disrupt even slightly God's purposes for Jesus. God's purposes are just as secure for those of us who, like Jesus, will to do his will.

After commenting on his origin Jesus speaks of his departure and destination (vv. 33-36). The leaders want Jesus off the scene. They are threatening him with arrest and death. He tells them serenely and sovereignly that he will indeed be leaving soon. The crucifixion is probably about six months away, though we cannot be sure of this since we do not know how much John is leaving out of the story (cf. 21:25). They will indeed put him to death, but even in death he will go to the one who sent him (v. 33; cf. v. 29).

After the guards are sent, Jesus says, You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come (v. 34). The opponents had been looking for him at this feast (v. 11), but they were not able to find him until he appeared openly. Their seeking has not been like the disciples' seeking (cf. 1:38; 6:24); they are judges who stand self-condemned by their response to him. He will be with the Father. Since he is the way to the Father (14:6), they cut themselves off from the Father when they reject Jesus. Again, Jesus implies that they are alienated from God.

These opponents are fulfilling a pattern from the prophetic and wisdom traditions (cf. Brown 1966:318; Cory 1997). Amos says the days are coming when people will search for the word of the Lord and not find it (8:12). Hosea says the peoples' hearts are full of prostitution and arrogance, so they will seek the Lord but not find him since he has withdrawn himself from them (5:3-6). Wisdom says,

Then they will call to me but I will not answer;


they will look for me but will not find me.

Since they hated knowledge


and did not chose to fear the Lord,

since they would not accept my advice


and spurned my rebuke,

they will eat the fruit of their ways


and be filled with the fruit of their schemes. (Prov 1:28-31)

Part of God's judgment is to withdraw access to his revelation. The "judgment will consist in the very fact that he has gone, and therefore that the time of the revelation is past. . . . They will long for the revelation, but in vain; for then it will be too late; he will no longer be accessible to them" (Bultmann 1971:307). Those who seek God's word and wisdom with their unfaithful hearts cannot expect to find what they seek. Jesus, as the incarnate Word and Wisdom of God, must be sought with a heart that wills to do God's will.

We can see from the response of these opponents, now referred to as the Jews (7:35; see comment on 1:19), that they are alienated from God. Jesus has spoken of the Father, but they completely miss his point. They speculate on where Jesus intends to go. If he were to go among the Greeks (v. 35), then they would not find him since they would not want to go looking for him there. Or perhaps they think that because he has been exposed as a false prophet in Israel he will go to the Greeks to try to drum up a following there (Talbert 1992:147). They are keying in on Jesus as a teacher (v. 35), as they did earlier in the chapter (vv. 14-17, 28), but they are not receiving his teaching.

There is, of course, enormous irony in their thinking Jesus might go among the Greeks. It is the arrival of the Greeks, who ask to see Jesus (12:20), that signals the coming of his hour. Through the witness of his disciples he will indeed go and teach the Greeks (cf. 10:16; 17:20). These opponents say more than they realize, just as Caiaphas will later (11:49-50). In both cases what is said refers to Jesus' death. These opponents are seeking to kill Jesus, but through his death the world will be saved.

A number of scholars see traces of Gnostic thought here: the themes of origin and destiny, whence and whither, are two major concerns among the Gnostics. The gnosis (knowledge) they sought was largely concerned with understanding the cosmos and human nature (Schmitz and Schütz 1976:393-94). "But for the Christian the answer . . . does not lie in gnosis about his own origin, but in faith in the one sent by God, who truly comes from God and leads the way to him (cf. 14:2-6)" (Schnackenburg 1980b:147). Jesus is here seen as the true gnostic with the ultimate answers about whence and whither. Salvation is indeed a matter of gnosis (17:3), but this knowledge is a relationship with the Father through the Son. Knowledge, for John, "has primarily the sense of the recognition and reception of love" (Bultmann 1964:711).

37On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. 38Whoever believes in me, as[3] the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." 39By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.
John 7:37-39


Jesus, the Source of Living Water, Extends an Invitation to All Who Thirst (7:37-39)

John now takes us to Jesus' shocking, clear claim made on the last and greatest day of the Feast (v. 37). On each day of the feast there was a procession of priests to the pool of Siloam to draw water (m. Sukka 4:9). The priests returned to the temple, where the water was taken in procession once around the altar with the choir chanting Psalms 113-118, and then the water was poured out as a libation at the morning sacrifice. All-night revelry lead up to this morning libation. This was a time of joy so great that it was said, "He that never has seen the joy of the Beth he-She'ubah [water-drawing] has never in his life seen joy" (m. Sukka 5:1; cf. Deut 16:14-15; Jubilees 16:20, 25). This joy was associated with Isaiah 12:3, "With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation." On the seventh day of the festival the priests processed around the altar with the water not once but seven times (Bloch 1980:200; cf. Beasley-Murray 1987:113 for a more detailed description).

At this high point of the festival Jesus dramatically cries out loudly (krazo, as in v. 28), If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink (v. 37). If he spoke this invitation during the revelry, he would have to shout just to be heard. But we have also an allusion to the image of Wisdom, calling out, inviting all mankind to come and drink (cf. Prov 8--9; Sirach 24:19). What Jesus offers is the fulfillment of the very things they were celebrating. Here is grace upon grace (Jn 1:16). Here the Son is repeating the offer of the Father, "Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters" (Is 55:1). Indeed, he is fulfilling the role of God, who "will guide them and lead them beside springs of water" (Is 49:10). His offer shows he is far more than just a prophet or an agent; here we have God himself offering us life.

In Jewish writings water is a very rich symbol (cf. Goppelt 1972:318-22). God himself can be called "the spring of living water" (Jer 2:13; 17:13). Other texts that use water imagery speak of Wisdom (Baruch 3:12; Sirach 15:3; 24:21, 25-27, 30-31), the law (Sifre on Deuteronomy 48) and, as here in John 7:39, the Holy Spirit (Genesis Rabbah 70:8; Targum of Isaiah 44:3). Jesus, in offering the Spirit (v. 39), is claiming to be able to satisfy people's thirst for God. The cries of the psalmists are answered. David prayed, "O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water" (Ps 63:1). The sons of Korah sang, "As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?" (Ps 42:1-2). Both of these psalms go on to speak of meeting God in the temple: David has seen God in the sanctuary (Ps 63:2), and the sons of Korah speak of "leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng" (Ps 42:4). When Jesus cries out at the end of the Feast of Tabernacles on this particular day, the worshipers meet God in his sanctuary--in the person of his Son. The longing for God is met with God's invitation to come and be satisfied. In Jesus, God's own desire for man is expressed and the desire of man for God is met. All that the temple represented is now found in Jesus.

This invitation to come and drink is the climax of a series of references to water in this Gospel: the water turned to wine (chap. 2), the water of the new birth (chap. 3), the living water (chap. 4), the cleansing water of Bethesda (chap. 5) and the calming of the waters (chap. 6). All of these have revealed Jesus as the agent of God who brings God's gracious offer of life.

In offering them the Spirit he is claiming that the age to come has already arrived. Just as water flowed out from the Garden of Eden (Gen 2:10-14), so a river flows from the eschatological temple (Ezek 47). Ezekiel's vision has begun to be fulfilled in Jesus' offer in the temple, and it will come to completion in heaven in "the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb" (Rev 22:1). That heavenly water of life is already available through Jesus. His invitation at the Feast of Tabernacles is repeated in the invitation at the end of the book of Revelation: "Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life" (Rev 22:17).

The words of Jesus' invitation echo in our ears. Jesus stands at the doors of our hearts and speaks to the heart of each person on earth, offering the water of eternal life--the life that flows from God. Evangelism is a matter of our giving voice to this spiritual call. Christians need to hold up Jesus in all his beauty, that those with a desire for God may find the God who is offering himself.

While Jesus is clearly offering the water of the Spirit, it is not entirely clear to whom him refers (v. 38). Both the ancient church and modern scholars are divided over whether him refers to Jesus or the believer (cf. NIV text and margin). A reference here to Christ is more in keeping with John's thought. Christ is clearly described as the one through whom believers receive the Spirit; he breathes on them and says, "Receive the Holy Spirit" (20:22). Although John 4:14--"Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life"--refers to the believer with language similar to that in verse 38, Jesus speaks there not of an outward flow to others, but of an inward well of eternal life. Christ indeed dwells in believers and radiates from them his light and life and love, but, despite the claims of some contemporary ministers, believers do not mediate the Spirit to others. Rather, they bear witness to Jesus (4:39), and people come to him (4:40-42) and receive the living water of the Spirit (4:10) from him. This is clear in the context of Jesus' invitation, for it is to himself that he invites the people to come (7:38) and those who believe in him are the ones who receive the Spirit (7:39).

No Old Testament verse speaks of living water that flows from within him, him being either a believer or the Messiah. But there are many Scriptures that speak of God's provision of water as evidence of his grace and as an image of his gift of life in his presence. Indeed, many of these texts were read at this festival, such as the gift of water from the rock (Ex 17:1-6), the water from the eschatological temple (Ezek 47:1-11; cf. Joel 3:18) and the water from Jerusalem that will flow in the age to come (Zech 14:8; cf. Beasley-Murray 1987:116). In Nehemiah there is a reference to the water from the rock in the wilderness (Neh 9:15), which is followed by a description of God's gracious provision: "You gave your good Spirit to instruct them. You did not withhold your manna from their mouths, and you gave them water for their thirst" (9:20; cf. Carson 1991:326-27). In Nehemiah the focus is on the giving of the law, but the connection between the gift of the Spirit and the giving of manna and water suggests correlations in the Jewish tradition. Given John's motif of Jesus as the fulfillment of God's earlier revelation, the reference here to Scripture probably recalls a general set of images in the Old Testament rather than one particular text. Jesus provides the promised water of the age to come, which was itself a fulfillment of earlier provisions of water.

The people could not receive this Spirit until Jesus was glorified (Jn 7:39), that is, until his death (cf. 12:16, 23; 17:1). In the Son's death the glory of God shines brightest since God is love and love is the laying down of one's life (1 Jn 4:8; 3:16). One of the Spirit's roles is to bear witness to Jesus (Jn 15:26), and he could not do this until the revelation was complete. Until the Son's death, the heart of God could not be known and thus eternal life, which is knowledge of God (Jn 17:3), could not yet be experienced (cf. 1 Jn 2:20). Until the death of the Son, the life of God could not be conveyed by the Spirit.

Jesus' offer of the Spirit is both universal and addressed to individuals: If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink (v. 37). The first requirement is thirst. Everyone has spiritual thirst, for it is part of the human condition. Our need, our thirst, is what we bring to our relationship with God. This verse is one of many revealing, diagnostic texts in John. What do we thirst for? What do we really desire? Sin is our seeking relief from this thirst in something other than God.

Jesus invites those who know their need, those who are poor in spirit (cf. Mt 5:3), to take the initiative and come to him and drink (v. 37). Drinking refers to believing (cf. v. 38), which means aligning oneself with him, trusting him, receiving his teaching and obeying his commands. Such faith will enable one to receive the Spirit and enter an abiding relationship with Christ after his glorification. All of this is based on who God is and what he has done for us. When we believe we open our hands to receive what his grace offers--we come and drink.

40On hearing his words, some of the people said, "Surely this man is the Prophet."
41Others said, "He is the Christ."
42Still others asked, "How can the Christ come from Galilee? Does not the Scripture say that the Christ will come from David's family[4] and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?" 43Thus the people were divided because of Jesus. 44Some wanted to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him.

Unbelief of the Jewish Leaders

45Finally the temple guards went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, "Why didn't you bring him in?"
46"No one ever spoke the way this man does," the guards declared.
47"You mean he has deceived you also?" the Pharisees retorted. 48"Has any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him? 49No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law--there is a curse on them."
50Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, 51"Does our law condemn anyone without first hearing him to find out what he is doing?"
52They replied, "Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet[5] does not come out of Galilee."

John 7:40-52


Both the Crowd and the Pharisees Are Divided over Jesus (7:40-52)

Jesus' dramatic invitation to come to him for living water provokes strong reactions. Some in the crowd believe he is from God, but for others Jesus' is disqualified because of where he is from (vv. 40-44). The Pharisees are certain he is not from God and are desperate to arrest him, despite the witness of their own guards and Nicodemus, one of their own members (vv. 45-52). Thus, the pattern of events earlier in the chapter is repeated (vv. 25-32; cf. Brown 1966:331), but this time there is the added problem concerning Jesus' origin and more detail concerning the leaders' rejection of Jesus. The light is shining, but the leaders of God's people are showing a determined preference for the darkness (cf. 3:19; 7:7).

John describes the crowd's very mixed response to Jesus. Some associate Jesus with one or another of the eschatological expectations, while others reject such claims. The words Jesus has spoken lead some in the crowd to affirm that Jesus is the prophet like Moses (v. 40; cf. Deut 18:15,18). Perhaps Jesus' offer of water is seen as a claim to be a second Moses, one who would repeat Moses' miracle of striking the rock and providing running water for the people in the wilderness (Ex 17:1-7; Num 20:1-13; cf. Jeremias 1967a:277).

Others in the crowd draw the conclusion that Jesus is the Messiah (v. 41). They seem to share the view expressed in a later rabbinic text that the Messiah was expected to provide bread and water like Moses did: "As the former redeemer caused manna to descend, as it is stated, `Behold, I will cause to rain bread from heaven for you' (Ex 16:4), so will the latter Redeemer cause manna to descend, as it is stated. `May he be as a rich cornfield in the land' (Ps 72:16). As the former redeemer made a well to rise, so will the latter Redeemer bring up water, as it is stated, `And a fountain shall come forth of the house of the Lord, and shall water the valley of Shittim' (Joel 4:18)" (Midrash Ecclesiastes Rabbah 1:9).

These reactions reflect the variety of views within Judaism concerning the one (or ones) God would send to rescue his people. Despite this diversity, Jesus' words and deeds reveal him to be the expected one. Those in the crowd who recognize him as the Prophet or the Messiah still do not fully realize who it is they are dealing with any more than the Samaritan woman did when she accepted him as the Messiah. But such faith is the right start and true as far as it goes. The sower has sown seed, and some of it is producing fruit.

But John does not dwell on those who have seen something of the truth about Jesus. Rather, he contrasts them with those who reject the idea that Jesus is the Messiah. Earlier some people rejected Jesus because they knew where he came from and Messiah's origin was to be unknown (7:27). Now a different tradition is in view--that Messiah was to come from Bethlehem since he was the Son of David (v. 42; cf. Mic 5.2). Both conclusions are ironic. Earlier the people thought Jesus' origins were known when in fact they were unknown, for he came from the Father. Now those who reject Jesus do so because he is not from Bethlehem, when in fact he is.

John does not state elsewhere that Jesus is from Bethlehem, so a number of scholars have questioned whether he was actually aware of this fact. But Jesus' descent from David was well known in the early church (Mt 2:4-5; Lk 2:4; Rom 1:3; 2 Tim 2:8). "It seems strange that any one should have argued from this passage that the writer of the Gospel was unacquainted with Christ's birth at Bethlehem. He simply relates the words of the multitude who were unacquainted with it (comp. Luke 4:23)" (Westcott 1908:1:280). The point is to reveal how ignorant those who rejected Jesus were and how unjust their rejection was.

This is another example of rejecting Jesus on the basis of Scripture (cf. 5:46). As this story continues it is clear that the role of Scripture is a major focus (vv. 49-52). The problem is not with Scripture nor with their desire to be faithful to it--Jesus shares this attitude. The problem is their ignorance of Jesus. If they knew him better, these objections would be met, for his origin is not known: he is from the Father, and he is in fact from Bethlehem. There is more to it than this, of course. For if Jesus is the one he claims to be, then Scripture will have to be interpreted around him. This means that much of the Jewish interpretation of God's revelation regarding the nation, the land, the temple and the law itself will have to be rethought. John's Gospel is a sustained exposition of how Scripture actually bears witness to Jesus and against his opponents (Whitacre 1982:26-68).

The result of Jesus' clear teaching is division among the crowd (v. 43). This is the judgment that comes when the light shines. Such judgment is part of the job description Jesus spelled out in his keynote address (5:22, 30), as is evident throughout his ministry and as will be addressed more directly later at this feast (8:15-16, 26, 50).

Another attempt is made to seize Jesus (v. 44; cf. v. 30). Instead of receiving him as the Son of God whose word they should obey, they wanted to have him under their own will. This disordered desire is at the heart of human rebellion against God. But they do not act on their desire: no one laid a hand on him (v. 44). Again we see the contrast between the desire of rebellious humanity and the sovereign outworking of God's plan.

John shifts from the crowd and their chaotic reaction to the Jewish leadership, referred to as the chief priests and Pharisees (v. 45). Their settled opposition to Jesus is contrasted with a few of their associates' favorable response to Jesus--first their servants (vv. 45-49) and then Nicodemus, one of their own members (vv. 50-52).

The temple guards return empty-handed not because they had been rendered powerless by Jesus (cf. their later experience, 18:3-6), nor because they feared the crowds, for some among the crowds also wanted to seize him (contrast later, Mt 26:5 par. Mk 14:2 par. Lk 22:2, 6). Rather, they are struck by the uniqueness of Jesus' message (7:46). This probably accounts for the fact that they were gone for four days (cf. 7:14, 32, 37) instead of an hour or so, as the authorities might have expected! It is right that they should be struck by Jesus' teaching--here the eternal Word was speaking about himself, about God and about the salvation he had brought in fulfillment of the promises made through the prophets. Jesus' very way of speaking was unique, as befit his unique message: "The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life" (6:63). It is a mark of our own spiritual dullness if we can read the Gospels and be bored. Boredom is one response to Jesus we never find in the Gospels.

Their own servants have born witness to Jesus, but the authorities are rigid in their opposition. They accuse their servants of having been deceived, a view expressed earlier by some in the crowd (7:12). They knew their servants were learned in the Scriptures, so they were surprised that "even they" (kai hymeis) have been deceived. So they point to themselves as the ones learned in the Scriptures and capable of discerning the truth of religious teaching (v. 48), and then they contrast their secure assessment with that of the crowd, which was ignorant of the law (v. 49).

To speak of the crowd as ignorant of the law and under a curse corresponds to the rabbinic view of the 'am ha'arets, the people of the land. Prior to the exile this was a more positive term, referring simply to "the body of free men, enjoying civic rights in a given territory" (de Vaux 1961:1:70). Later it meant the people in distinction to various forms of leadership (de Vaux 1961:1:71). A tone of disdain begins in Ezra and Nehemiah, where the term sometimes refers to "the heterogeneous population which the returnees found in the land" (Healey 1992:169; cf. Ezra 9:1-2; 10:2, 11; Neh 10:30-31). For the rabbis the term is theological and negative. The Pharisees' use in our passage corresponds to this rabbinic view and also probably reflects the power struggles within first-century Judaism (cf. Meyer and Katz 1967:589-90). This term is basically a code phrase for those who do not approach the law in the same way as the rabbis and the Pharisees, who study the law constantly and work out meticulous interpretations for how to fulfill its commandments. Since one cannot keep the law if one does not know it, such ignorance implies law breaking and thus God's curse (cf. Deut 27:15-26). Rabbi Hillel (20 B.C.) said, "An uneducated man does not fear sin, and an Am ha-aretz is not pious" (m. 'Abot 2:5). This does not mean the 'am ha'arets were ignorant of the Scriptures or immoral. It means they did not try to keep the form of ritual purity promoted by the scribes and Pharisees. From the debates in all four Gospels it is clear that Jesus was as learned in the law as the rabbis were, yet he rejected their understanding of faithfulness to the Torah.

The opponents' ignorance or deceit is revealed in their response to the guards (vv. 45-49). First, they say that not one (me tis) of the rulers or Pharisees has believed in Jesus when in fact Nicodemus, who was both a Pharisee and a ruler (3:1), had acknowledged that Jesus was a teacher come from God and, by implication, certainly not a deceiver (3:2). Second, they take their stand on the law in contrast to this mob that knows nothing of the law (v. 49). But their whole way of handling the situation is contrary to the law, as Nicodemus points out (v. 51). The Old Testament does not contain an explicit text that makes Nicodemus's point, but the law's exhortation to make a thorough investigation when passing judgment (Deut 17:2-5; 19:15-19) would include hearing the accused, as later rabbinic teaching makes clear (m. Sanhedrin 5:4; Exodus Rabbah 21:3). This principle was recognized at the time of Jesus, otherwise Nicodemus's response would carry no weight. The text also implies that they knew of this principle because they do not dispute Nicodemus's point.

Instead, they choose to defend their judgment using a different supposed teaching of Scripture: a prophet does not come out of Galilee (v. 52). The NIV margin note indicates that two early manuscripts (p66 and p75) read "the Prophet" instead of a prophet. A reference here to "the" prophet fits the context well (v. 40) and has been accepted by a number of scholars. Since, however, Scripture does not say where the prophet like Moses is to arise, the opponents' rejection of Galilee is based more on prejudice against that region than revelation.

This prejudice is even stronger if the reading a prophet is accepted, as it probably should be. On this reading the evidence of their perversity is further heightened because Scripture reveals that in fact prophets had arisen in Galilee; for example, the prophet mentioned in 2 Kings 14:25 was Jonah, son of Amittai from Gath Hepher, which was about three miles northeast of Nazareth. Indeed, rabbinic sources from the late first-century A.D. speak of prophets having arisen from every tribe of Israel (b. Sukka 27b). Thus, whether we read "the prophet" or a prophet, there is great irony in their false claim to scriptural authority for their view regarding Galilee. Indeed, their very response to Nicodemus's accusation that they are acting contrary to the law reveals yet more clearly the truth of his charge.

On a deeper level this passage provides a vivid example of part of John's primary assessment of these opponents. They are judging by appearances (7:24) and are concerned more with human opinion than God's truth (5:44). When their servants bear witness to Christ they do not consider the authority of Jesus that the servants had experienced. Instead, they assume the servants were swayed by the crowd, and they contrast their own response to this response. They are weighing one set of human voices against another. In this they are acting as though they are in a trial: they attend to the witnesses, as it were, but they do not confront the evidence of Jesus himself. As Jesus will make clear, they are judging by weak and faulty human standards (8:15).Nicodemus, unlike his peers, had undertaken an investigation of the sort he here refers to (v. 51). He had come to a conclusion based on Jesus' deeds (3:2), but when he then went to Jesus and heard him Nicodemus came away confused. Thus, he had already learned for himself the truth of the servants' report that no one ever spoke the way this man does (v. 46). Our present passage shows that Nicodemus is still inclined toward Jesus; he is even willing to stick up for him in the face of severe opposition. He is not a full disciple, but he is a supporter. This passage reveals that the Pharisees are at the heart of the opposition to Jesus. Given the strong dualistic language John uses throughout his Gospel, it is important to see that he realizes that even the most negative group, the Pharisees, contains a person who is open to Jesus. John focuses on groups, but he also keeps sight of individuals.

As Jesus continues to act and speak it is increasingly clear that one must either receive him and his message on his own terms or utterly reject him. This is no less true today, not only for non-Christians considering the claims of Jesus, but also for those who call themselves his followers. Like these Pharisees it is all too easy to mistake our interpretations of God's revelation for reality. We should hold firmly to what has been revealed in Scripture under the guidance the Spirit has given the church, but we must do so in an abiding relationship with the living God in whose presence we live. We must hold firmly to him in his objectively real presence and allow him to correct our personal, faulty understandings of him and his ways. The truth is in Jesus in perfection, but our apprehension of him is not yet perfect.

In this section, then, we have a striking picture of the opponents' rejection of Jesus. We are at the low point in Jesus' ministry; most of his disciples have abandoned him, and he is moving about like a marked man. Even in this setting, some are open enough to respond by recognizing him as one sent from God in some sense (vv. 40-41). The division among the crowd and the positive response of the leaders' servants and of Nicodemus serve to highlight just how strong the opponents' rejection of Jesus is. This absolute rejection prepares us for Jesus' teachings in the next chapter, in which he will reveal the true identity of these opponents who claim to speak for God.

53Then each went to his own home.

John 7:53

1But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4and said to Jesus, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?" 6They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
7But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." 8Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
9At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10Jesus straightened up and asked her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?"
11"No one, sir," she said.
"Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin."

John 8:1-11


Jesus Forgives a Woman Taken in Adultery (7:53-8:11)

This story, beloved for its revelation of God's mercy toward sinners, is found only in John. It was almost certainly not part of John's original Gospel. The NIV separates this passage off from the rest of the Gospel with the note, "The earliest and most reliable manuscripts and other ancient witnesses do not have John 7:53--8:11." That is, the earliest Greek manuscripts, the earliest translations and the earliest church fathers all lack reference to this story. Furthermore, some manuscripts place it at other points within John (after 7:36, 7:44 or 21:25), others include it in the Gospel of Luke (placing it after Luke 21:38), and many manuscripts have marks that indicate the scribes "were aware that it lacked satisfactory credentials" (Metzger 1994:189). Furthermore, it contains many expressions that are more like those in the Synoptic Gospels than those in John.

It appears to have been a well-known story, one of many that circulated orally from the beginning yet that none of the Gospel writers were led to include. But some in the later church thought this one was too good to leave out. The controversy with the teachers of the law and the Pharisees (v. 3) is similar to stories found in the Synoptics, as is the theme of God's mercy mediated by Jesus.

Those who believe that authorship is a primary criterion for canonicity will suspect or even reject this passage. Most of Christendom, however, has received this story as authoritative, and modern scholarship, although concluding firmly that it was not a part of John's Gospel originally, has generally recognized that this story describes an event from the life of Christ. Furthermore, it is as well written and as theologically profound as anything else in the Gospels.

What we have here, then, is a bit of Synoptic-like material stuck in the middle of John's Gospel. Its presence highlights some of the similarities and differences between John and the Synoptics. The setting is one of controversy in the temple, though the way this is introduced in 7:53--8:2 is much more like Luke's style (cf. Lk 19:47; 20:1; 21:37) than John's. Furthermore, the theme of judgment also corresponds to the theme of the larger section in John (7:24; 8:15-16). This setting and theme probably led to its inclusion in John at this point.

Most importantly, however, this story highlights the similarities and differences between John and the Synoptics regarding Jesus identity. The clarity of Jesus' self-revelation, typical of John and central to this larger passage (chaps. 7--8) is missing from this story. Jesus has spoken clearly and openly of himself by his invitation to come to himself as the source of living water (Jn 7:37-38). Our present story is immediately followed by another clear self-revelation of Jesus as the light of the world (8:12). Thus, Chrysostom, who does not comment on this story of the adulteress (no one in the East does so before the twelfth century), notes this larger theme (In John 52.2), whereas Augustine, who does comment on the text, does not make these connections (In John 33.2-3).

It is usually said that this story interrupts John's flow of thought, as though a patch of a different pattern has been sewn onto a piece of cloth. On the contrary, while the style of Jesus' self-revelation is quite different in John, this added story contains an example of the Synoptic form of revelation, which shows that Jesus is more than a human prophet. So although there is a patch, the patch is of the same pattern as the whole, albeit less bright. While the style of the material is very different, the substance is quite similar. This specific story is a case in point of what is generally true of the relation between the Synoptics and John. The Synoptics have as high a Christology as John does, though they express it differently.

The story unfolds in four stages. The first stage sets the scene (7:53--8:2). The meeting of the chief priests and Pharisees with their servants, the "temple guards" (7:45-52), presumably took place on the last (and seventh) day of the feast (see note on 7:37). As this passage stands in this context, Jesus is coming early to the temple to teach on the morning of the added eighth day of the feast, which was a day of rest (Lev 23:39).

The second stage of the story (8:3-6) describes the challenge presented to Jesus by the Jewish leaders. Their treatment of the woman is callous and demeaning. If she had committed adultery the previous evening (which is perhaps more likely than around dawn, v. 2), then we can assume these opponents had been holding her during the night and waiting for Jesus to show up in order to use her to test him. Her fear would have been great. Putting her in the midst of the crowd would have added public humiliation. A certain attitude of male-chauvinism comes across in their statement that the law of Moses commands the stoning of such women (v. 5). More precisely the law speaks of the death of both the man and the woman involved (Lev 20:10; Deut 22:22-24).

These opponents have a commendable zeal for righteousness, but theirs is a shallow righteousness that shows no concern for the soul of this woman. They are also being rather deceitful. There is no evidence that this law was carried out with any regularity, so they are raising a question in the name of loyalty to Moses, using a part of Moses' teaching that they themselves most likely have not kept. Furthermore, since the law says both the man and the woman who commit adultery are to be killed, we are left wondering why the man was not brought in as well. It may be that he had escaped, but the fact that only the woman is brought raises suspicions and does not speak well of their zeal for the law of Moses; for if they were really committed, they would have brought the man as well. Indeed, the law makes it clear that stoning could only take place after a careful trial, which included the chance for the condemned to confess his or her wrong (m. Sanhedrin 6:1-4). The hypocrisy of the opponents is evident.

This situation is apparently just an attempt to entrap Jesus (v. 6). If he is lax toward the law, then he is condemned. But if he holds a strict line, then he has allowed them to prevail in their ungodly treatment of this woman and has opened himself up to trouble from the Romans, for he will be held responsible if the stoning proceeds. The leaders of Israel are putting God to the test in the person of his Son, repeating the Israelites' historical pattern on more than one occasion in the wilderness at Meribah and Massah (Ex 17:2; Num 20:13; cf. Deut 6:16; Ps 95:8-9; 106:14).

The third stage, Jesus' response to the opponents (vv. 6-9), is very memorable. While remaining seated he bends over and writes with his finger on the ground. This act of writing on the ground is itself very significant. Kenneth E. Bailey has pointed out (in unpublished form) that it was unlawful to write even two letters on the sabbath but that writing with dust was permissible (m. shabbat 7:2; 12:5). If this were the eighth day of the feast, which was to be kept as a day of rest, then Jesus' writing on the ground would show that he knows well not only the law but also the oral interpretations.

Furthermore, his writing echoes an Old Testament passage, thereby turning it into a symbolic action (Jeremias 1972:228): "O Lord, the hope of Israel, all who forsake you will be put to shame. Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the Lord, the spring of living water" (Jer 17:13). Here "written in the dust" probably means the opposite of being written in the book of life (Ex 32:32; Dan 12:1); those who have turned away are consigned to death because they have rejected the one who is the source of the water of life. Thus it appears that Jesus is associating his opponents with those whom God condemns for forsaking himself and whom he consigns to death. The judgment that they suggest Jesus execute on this adulterous woman is in fact the judgment that he visits upon them for their rejection of him--the one who has offered them God's living water (7:38-39). In rejecting Jesus, they are forsaking God, and thereby committing a most shameful act. Adultery is shameful, certainly, but they themselves are acting in a shameful way worthy of death.

All of this is conveyed simply by Jesus' action of writing on the ground, which alludes to this passage from Jeremiah. This action could have this meaning whatever it was he wrote. Not surprisingly, many people have proposed theories of what he actually wrote on the ground. Perhaps the most common suggestion is still the most likely--that he wrote out some form of condemnation addressed toward them. This interpretation has been strengthened in recent years by the publication of a papyrus fragment from 256 B.C. (Zenon Papyrus 59) that uses the verb found here (katagrapho) in the sense of writing out an accusation against someone (Bauer, Gingrich and Danker 1979:410). So perhaps Jesus cited commands he knew them to be guilty of breaking, or it could be he cited Jeremiah 17:13 putting, as it were, a caption under his symbolic act. Or maybe he enacted Jeremiah 17:13 by actually writing out the names of the accusers. Since they did not get his point right away, perhaps first he cited Jeremiah and then, as they persisted, he began to write their names. Such suggestions are obviously speculative, but they indicate possible explanations of what is happening.

When Jesus calls for the one without sin to cast the first stone he accomplishes several things: it relieves him from the charge of having instigated a stoning; it ensures there will not be a stoning, since none of the accusers will want to take responsibility for it; and it causes them to reflect on their own sinfulness before God. It has often been suggested that the eldest accusers were the first to leave (v. 9) because they recognized their own sinfulness more readily. However, leaving in this order may simply reflect the custom of deferring to the elders. In any case, their withdrawal was in fact a confession of sin. Those who came to condemn ended up condemning themselves by not casting a stone.

Jesus is left alone, sitting on the ground, bent over and writing, with the woman standing before him. As Augustine says, "The two were left alone, misera et misericordia" ("a wretched woman and Mercy"; In John 33.5). This prepares for the fourth and final stage of this story--Jesus' response to the woman (vv. 10-11). He straightens up and asks for a report of what happened, as if he had been totally oblivious to what took place as he concentrated on his writing. He does not ask her about the charges but rather about that aspect of the situation most heartening to the woman: Where are they? Has no one condemned you? (v. 10). They had of course condemned her in their accusations, but by not following through on the charge they had thrown out her case.

But there is one left who could still execute the judgment--the only one present who was without sin and thus could throw the first stone. Is she hopeful at this point or still quite frightened? We can only speculate as to whether the woman was familiar with Jesus and his embodiment of the mercy of God. In any case, she becomes a memorable example of the fact that "God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him" (3:17). Jesus says to her, "Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on no longer sin" (8:11). By adding then to the beginning of this sentence the NIV allows the most unfortunate suggestion that Jesus' response was caused by the response of the teachers of the law and the Pharisees. The translation of the end of the verse is also unfortunate, since leave your life of sin "almost paints the woman as an habitual whore (though the Greek bears no such overtones)" (Carson 1991:337).

Jesus grants pardon, not acquittal, since the call to leave off sinning shows he knew she was indeed guilty of the adultery. His noncondemnation is quite different from theirs. They wanted to condemn but lacked the opportunity; he could have done so, but he did not. Here is mercy and righteousness. He condemned the sin and not the sinner (Augustine In John 33.6). But more than that, he called her to a new life. The gospel is not only the forgiveness of sins, but a new quality of life that overcomes the power of sin (cf. 8:32-36; 1 Jn 3:4-6).

This story raises very significant pastoral issues. The first issue is the nature of the commandments of Scripture. We see Jesus upholding the law's teaching that adultery is sin while also setting aside the specific regulations concerning the community's enforcement of that law. The implication is that the law contains revelation of right and wrong, which is true throughout history, as well as commandments for embodying that revelation in the community of God's people, which are not true for all times and places. To understand this distinction we must understand that the law as revelation of right and wrong is not an arbitrary set of rules that God made up to test our obedience. Rather, the law is the transposition into human society of patterns of relationship that reflect God's own character. Adultery is wrong because it violates relationships of faithfulness, and such violation is wrong, ultimately, because God himself is characterized by faithfulness. The morality of Scripture is a pattern of life that reflects God's own life. This aspect of the law is unchanging, but the law's prescription for how the community is to embody and enforce the revealed vision of relationships may vary.

This story also illustrates another pastoral issue. As Augustine noted (In John 33.8), we are in danger from both hope and despair. That is, we can have a false optimism that says "God is merciful so I can do as I please" or a despair that says "there is no forgiveness for the sin I have committed." This story shows we should keep these two inclinations in balance. There is no sin that God does not forgive. Christ's death atoned for all sin. The only sin that remains unforgiven is the one that is not repented of. But, on the other hand, God's call to us is to intimacy with himself, and sin cannot be in his presence any more than darkness can be in the presence of light. Christ's atonement cleanses us from sin as we repent day by day, and his Spirit is working in us a transformation so that in the end we will come out pure, though not in this life (1 Jn 1:8). But sin must be cut off. We must take it seriously. Jesus himself often tells us to fear God and his judgment.

While addressing these pastoral issues, this passage also contains extremely significant revelation of Jesus' identity. The fact that it comes in this Synoptic style and yet fits so well in this context in John makes it all the more remarkable. The opponents challenged Jesus regarding the law of Moses by saying, essentially, Moses tells us to stone such a person, but you--what do you say? (v. 5, you is emphatic in the Greek). Jesus sets aside Moses' clear command, albeit one that few ever acted on in Jesus' day. He does not follow through on Moses' command even when challenged to do so, which leads us to believe that he is more than just a prophet (see comment on 9:34).

Jesus does not say explicitly that he forgives the woman, but such is the implication of his saying he does not condemn her and then telling her to not sin again. So here we seem to have another occasion when Jesus mediates the forgiveness of God (cf. Mt 9:1-8; Mk 2:3-12; Lk 5:18-26; 7:36-50). In doing so, he is bypassing the temple and acting in a divine role. This revelation of Jesus' divinity is as profound as other such revelations in this Gospel, though it is expressed in the form it takes in the Synoptics. This patch of cloth sown onto John's Gospel has the same pattern as the whole, even if the colors are somewhat different.

12When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."
13The Pharisees challenged him, "Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid."
14Jesus answered, "Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going. But you have no idea where I come from or where I am going. 15You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one. 16But if I do judge, my decisions are right, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me. 17In your own Law it is written that the testimony of two men is valid. 18I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me."
19Then they asked him, "Where is your father?"
20"You do not know me or my Father," Jesus replied. "If you knew me, you would know my Father also." He spoke these words while teaching in the temple area near the place where the offerings were put. Yet no one seized him, because his time had not yet come.
John 8:12-20


Jesus Reveals Himself as the Light of the World (8:12-20)

Jesus has dramatically called people to come to him for God's living water (7:37-38) and now he again (palin, 8:12) refers to himself in a most startling way, saying, I am the light of the world (v. 12). This claim, like the claim to give living water, also corresponds to events at this feast. A lamp-lighting ceremony took place in the temple every evening of the feast, during which large lamps were set up in the Court of Women. The lamps' light, it was said, filled every courtyard in the city (m. Sukka 5:3). In the light of these lamps there was great singing and dancing all evening in celebration of God's salvation, especially his deliverance at the exodus as he lead his people with his presence in a pillar of fire by night. In the sight of these great lamps in the Court of Women (8:20), perhaps even in the evening while they blazed, Jesus proclaims himself to be the light of the world.

Light is a universal religious image (cf. Barrett 1978:335-37; Conzelmann 1974a: 310-43). The primary context for John's use of this image is the Old Testament, but readers from virtually any background would find meaning in these words. In the Old Testament the motif of light is used to refer to God's presence (Num 6:25; Ps 4:6; 104:2; Ezek 1:4, 27-28), his salvation (Ps 27:1; 44:3; 67:1-2; 80:1, 3, 7, 19; Is 60:19-20) and his revelation (Ps 119:105, 130; Prov 6:23; cf. Conzelmann 1974a:319-22). Thus, in the setting of this festival, which celebrates the Israelites' deliverance, Jesus is claiming to be the divine presence that saves God's people from their bondage. He is the saving presence for the whole world, not just for the Jews. He has already spoken of his mission to the world (Jn 6:33, 51; cf. 1:29; 3:16-17), and now he reiterates it in terms that remind us of the role of the suffering servant, who was to be a "light to the nations" (Is 49:6).

Israel followed the presence of the Lord in the pillar of fire as they escaped Egypt and journeyed to the Promised Land (Ex 13:21; Neh 9:12; Ps 78:14; 2 Esdras 1:14). Now Jesus says that those who follow him will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life (Jn 8:12). Here is a promise of salvation much greater than the salvation Israel experienced, for it is deliverance not just from a national enemy, but from the forces of rebellion against God that lie behind every form of evil in the world. And this deliverance is not just a rescue from darkness and a glimpse of the light, but an ongoing life apart from darkness through possession of the light of life. This pregnant phrase refers to "the light which both springs from life and issues in life; of which life is the essential principle and the necessary result" (Westcott 1908:2:3). The world lies in darkness and death because it has rebelled against God and thus broken contact with the one source of light and life. Jesus claims to be the light that brings light and life back to the world and sets it free from its bondage to sin. All the salvation that went before, such as the deliverance celebrated at this feast, was a type of this deepest and truest salvation that Jesus now offers.

The Pharisees do not yet realize the enormity of Jesus' claims regarding himself, so they do not respond with a charge of blasphemy. Instead, they challenge the form his self-proclamation takes, charging him with bearing witness to himself and therefore lacking sufficient witnesses (8:13). The need for two or three witnesses is laid down in the law (Deut 19:15), and the later tradition, reflected here, said that "none may be believed when he testifies of himself" (m. Ketubot 2:9).

Jesus says his testimony is valid (alethes, "true") because he knows where he is from and where he is going, even though they do not (v. 14). That is, he really does know the truth about himself because he knows the Father and is conscious of his relation to the Father. They cannot see this truth about him because they are judging by human standards (v. 15; kata ten sarka, "according to the flesh"). It is as though they are trying to evaluate the straightness of a line and their only tool is a crooked yardstick, or as if they are in an art gallery trying to evaluate the paintings when they have been blind from birth, never having seen shape nor color. Their judgment is limited to the human sphere and "breaks down when applied to anything which puts this sphere in question" (Bultmann 1971:281).

Jesus contrasts their inability to judge with his own ability (8:15-16). They judge by human standards, he says, but I pass judgment on no one (8:15). He does not pass judgment like they do, that is, according to "mere appearances" (7:24) and "according to human standards" (8:15). Instead, he passes judgment in keeping with reality, because he does so in oneness with the Father (8:16). He judges simply by revealing the truth and pointing out one's distance from that truth. That is why he says he will not judge but his words will judge (12:47-48). Such revelation carries implicit condemnation of that which is untrue, and Jesus makes that condemnation explicit. So what does he mean when he says he not condemn (3:17-18)? The Pharisees have determined Jesus is in error, and they have condemned him in the sense of writing him off. Jesus, on the other hand, has determined they are in error and has shown that they are culpable for their rejection of him and for the alienation from God which lies behind this rejection. But he has not condemned them in the sense of dismissing them, for he still bears witness to them, offering them revelation and thereby offering them salvation.

These distinctions regarding judgment are important within the church. Jesus says, "Do not judge, or you too will be judged" (Mt 7:1). Clearly this does not mean we should not distinguish good from evil or truth from error, for Jesus calls us to do just that a few verses later in his teaching on false prophets (Mt 7:15-20). But it is one thing to recognize evil and error and quite another to conclude that an individual is totally lost to God. The final state of a person's soul is known only to God. Therefore we should write off no one, yet all the while we should discern the teaching and behavior to see whether it is of God. Such discernment can only come from Christ through the Spirit, for our judgments, like Jesus' (Jn 8:16), can only be right if they are in union with the Father.

Jesus brings up the need for two witnesses (8:17) in order, it seems, to bring home the point that when he bears witness his is not the witness of a single person but of two persons, himself and his Father (8:18; cf. 5:31-32). Since the two witnesses required by the law do not include the accused this would not be a valid legal argument. So Jesus seems to use the law in a nonlegal way to bear witness to his relationship with the Father. The Father is known as the one who sent me (v. 18); in other words, Jesus is identified by his relationship to the Father, and the Father, likewise, is known by his relationship to Jesus.

When the Pharisees ask Where is your father? (v. 19), they reveal that they do not realize Jesus is talking about God. It is as if they want to locate this Father so they can interrogate him, as they will the parents of the blind man in the next chapter. It would not do them much good, since those who are not open to God cannot hear him even when he speaks directly to them (12:28-30). They do not realize that in Jesus they are seeing the clearest revelation of the Father himself: If you knew me, you would know my Father also (v. 19; cf. 14:9-11). To know Jesus is to know God--such is the core proclamation of this Gospel. Their question points up once again their alienation from God.

Jesus' revelation of himself as the light of the world and this ensuing discussion take place in the temple near the place where the offerings were put (v. 20), which is, most likely, in the Court of Women (Carson 1991:341). In the temple Jesus has revealed himself as the fulfillment of what the temple itself was about--the presence of God on earth. And "in the temple itself they gave proof of their being closed to the Revealer!" (Bultmann 1971:283). John suggests that the opponents wanted to seize him (v. 20). Just as Jesus' every action is under the direction of the Father, so are the circumstances of his life. They were not able to act against him because his time had not yet come (v. 20). Thus, these opponents are ignorant of both Jesus and his Father (v. 20), a point already made clear at this feast (7:28, 34) and driven home over and over in this chapter.

21Once more Jesus said to them, "I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come."
22This made the Jews ask, "Will he kill himself? Is that why he says, 'Where I go, you cannot come'?"
23But he continued, "You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be,[1] you will indeed die in your sins."
25"Who are you?" they asked.
26"Just what I have been claiming all along," Jesus replied. "I have much to say in judgment of you. But he who sent me is reliable, and what I have heard from him I tell the world."
27They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father. 28So Jesus said, "When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. 29The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him." 30Even as he spoke, many put their faith in him.

John 8:21-30


Jesus Reveals Himself as the One from Above (8:21-30)

John introduces this section as he did the last (palin, translated once more; cf. 8:12), indicating a progression as the Light of the World shines ever more brightly, revealing himself, his Father and his opponents' true condition. Jesus returns to the theme of his departure, but now he connects it with his opponents' sinfulness. His departure has implications for them, for they will look for him, presumably for help, but they will die in their sins. His conclusion--Where I go, you cannot come (v. 21)--seems to give the reason they will die in their sins: they will die in their sins because they are not able to go with him to the Father. Jesus is the way to the Father (14:6), the one who takes away the sin of the world (1:29), who enables sinful mankind to be united with the Father. In rejecting him the opponents are cutting themselves off from the presence of the Father.

They speculate that Jesus may be contemplating suicide. According to Josephus, the Jews viewed suicide as consigning a person to "the darker regions of the nether world" because it was a crime "hateful to God" as an act of "impiety toward our creator" (Jewish Wars 3.375-79). So when Jesus says they will die in their sins because they cannot go where he is going, they think he is saying that he himself will die in a sinful way. Their interpretation of his words shows that either they are missing entirely what he is saying or they are hardheartedly rejecting his message. This reference to suicide ironically applies to them, for there is a sense in which their unbelief is suicide in that they are choosing to reject his offer of the light of life.

Jesus does not pick up on their reference to suicide. We see here the mercy of God refusing to be deflected by human perversity or hardness of heart. Instead, he repeats his witness in different language: You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world (v. 23). What was implied earlier in the charge that they "judge by human standards" (v. 15) is now expressed quite clearly: Jesus and the Jews are not in the same sphere. Jesus has come from God and is bringing God's own presence into our midst, but they have no openness to God (1:10-11). Jesus is speaking of states of being, of core realities. He has come into this world in the fullness of humanity (1:14; cf. Thompson 1988), but unlike them, he is not of this world, that is, of human society as it exists apart from God. Indeed, it is because he is above this world that he is able to help the world.

In saying that he is from above Jesus contrasts himself with every other agent of revelation. He is not simply a human being who has achieved enlightenment and now has come to share what he has learned. His point of origin is not this world to begin with. He is a human being just as we are, but there is more to him than that. This claim, in the light of Jesus' use of "I am" (vv. 12, 24, 58), reveals the two natures of Christ, as the church later came to express it--fully God as well as fully man.

Jesus concludes by spelling out his identity, their peril and the remedy: I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am [the one I claim to be], you will indeed die in your sins (v. 24). Jesus says they must believe that "I am" (ego eimi). The NIV takes this use of ego eimi as a recognition formula (see comment on 6:20). This may be correct, but John always intends Jesus' uses of this formula to echo the divine name, as becomes clear at the end of this chapter (v. 58). Indeed, the one I claim to be (to use the NIV's paraphrase) is the I AM. The people are trying to figure out whether he is the Prophet or the Messiah, but they still need to believe his identity is much more profound than anything they mean by these titles.

Without faith in Jesus as God's divine Son who has come from above, they will die in their sins. By repeating this warning Jesus is shining as the light of the world, revealing their true condition and its consequences. If we cannot see God in the clearest and most accessible revelation of him ever given--the clearest it is even possible to give--then how can we see him in any lesser manifestation? How are we going to recognize the cryptic, invisible God whom nobody has seen (1:18; 6:46) if we cannot recognize his Son incarnate?

Sin is separation from God and therefore a state of death, since God is the source of all life. Jesus says they are in their sins, which means they are alienated from God and thus under the wrath of God (cf. 3:36). Human beings apart from God are not in neutral territory. They are in a state of rebellion against God that began at the first rebellion (Gen 3) and is characterized by death (Gen 2:17). The people Jesus addresses are as ignorant of their own condition as they are of his identity.

Jesus' lucid statement leads them to ask the right question: Who are you? (v. 25). Jesus does not respond with a fresh statement right away (though he will do so in what follows immediately in vv. 28-29) but instead points them back to what he has already told them. This question, after all, has been raised throughout this festival. They are viewing him according to human standards (v. 15), so he makes no sense to them. Until they are willing to open themselves to his message and accept him on his own terms they will make no headway.

Unfortunately, they are not close to doing so. Jesus warns them that he will need to spell out further their own condition: I have much to say in judgment of you (v. 26). This judgment is not just Jesus' own assessment. Here, as always, he is passing on what he has heard from the Father, who is himself reliable (alethes, "true"). He pronounces his judgment in what follows in this chapter.

They still do not understand that he was telling them about his Father (v. 27), so he speaks yet more clearly. They will know his identity when the Son of Man is lifted up (v. 28). Again, ego eimi can be used here as a recognition formula, as the NIV takes it (cf. v. 24), or as a reference to the divine name, as will be the case at the end of the chapter (v. 58). In either case, the Son of Man's death at their own hands (When you have lifted up) will reveal both his unique identification with the Father and his dependence on the Father as one distinct from the Father. They may be confused now, but they will know then. Whether this knowledge will result in salvation or judgment is not said. The idea is probably that they will at that point see the revelation shining at its brightest and have their hearts revealed as, in the light of that revelation, they either embrace or reject Christ and the God he reveals (cf. Schnackenburg 1980b:203).

Jesus concludes by repeating his witness to the Father's presence: The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him (v. 29). He had just spoken of not being alone but standing with the Father (v. 16), though the way he expressed himself could have merely suggested that he has the Father's backing. Now he repeats his claim that he is not alone, but here he makes it clear that he is talking about the Father's personal presence with him at all times, including right at that moment. Most of his disciples may have left him at this point (6:66), but he has not been deserted by his Father. Here we get a glimpse into the mystery of the relations between the Father and the Son, for the Father sends the Son and yet is present with the Son. The sending refers to the incarnation and the presence to the eternal relations (cf. Augustine In John 35.5; 36.8; 40.6; Chrysostom In John 53.2).

By saying this presence is due to his always doing what is pleasing to the Father, Jesus reveals the primacy of the Father. Not only the created order but the eternal Son of God is at one with the Father through sharing in the Father's will. That will is simply life itself--Reality. All else in existence, even the Son and the Spirit in their eternal, uncreated being, are dependent upon the Father as the source of all life. All life is an expression of the Father's one life. To do what pleases him is not simply a matter of morality but of sharing in his life itself. It is another way of saying that Christ does what he sees the Father doing and speaks what he hears from the Father. As such he is the model of all discipleship. The life Jesus is offering involves being taken up into the one life of the Father himself.

As Jesus thus speaks clearly, many put their faith in him (v. 30). Earlier in the Gospel such faith was tested and so also this faith will now be tested through more scandalous teaching by Jesus. This testing will reveal whether this faith is genuine or whether it is like that of an earlier crowd at an earlier feast in Jerusalem, which proved false (2:23-25).

In this section we have Jesus' very clear statement of his divine identity, of the necessity to have faith in him and of how the cross will reveal most clearly his identity as I AM. We also see the opponents asking the right question, but their ignorance of the Father is evident. The rest of this chapter will spell out as clearly as anywhere in the Gospel the truth about these opponents.

The Children of Abraham

31To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
33They answered him, "We are Abraham's descendants[2] and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?"
34Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37I know you are Abraham's descendants. Yet you are ready to kill me, because you have no room for my word. 38I am telling you what I have seen in the Father's presence, and you do what you have heard from your father.[3] "
39"Abraham is our father," they answered.
"If you were Abraham's children," said Jesus, "then you would[4] 40 do the things Abraham did. As it is, you are determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. 41You are doing the things your own father does."
"We are not illegitimate children," they protested. "The only Father we have is God himself."

The Children of the Devil

42Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me. 43Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! 46Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don't you believe me? 47He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God."

The Claims of Jesus About Himself

48The Jews answered him, "Aren't we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?"
49"I am not possessed by a demon," said Jesus, "but I honor my Father and you dishonor me. 50I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge. 51I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death."
52At this the Jews exclaimed, "Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that if anyone keeps your word, he will never taste death. 53Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?"
54Jesus replied, "If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. 55Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and keep his word. 56Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad."
57"You are not yet fifty years old," the Jews said to him, "and you have seen Abraham!"
58"I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "before Abraham was born, I am!" 59At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.

John 8:31-59


Jesus Clearly Reveals Both His True Identity and His Opponents' Identity (8:31-59)

Jesus' critique of his opponents here reaches its clearest expression, revolving around the theme of Abraham's children. Jesus makes it clear that they do not have the freedom they claim as children of Abraham nor do they reveal the characteristics of the children of Abraham. Instead, their attitudes and actions reveal that they are really children of the devil (v. 44). This is the deepest glimpse into the heart of his opponents, and it occurs in the context of Jesus' clearest revelation of his own identity. He is the unique Son of God who can use the divine I AM of himself, even though he is also distinct from God.

Many are now putting their faith in Jesus (v. 30), and his following seems to be growing again after its low point (cf. 6:66). Whenever people put their faith in Jesus he immediately tests that faith. In this case he begins by explaining what is behind such testing. Those who are really his disciples hold to his teaching, they remain in it (meinete, v. 31). Jesus tests his disciples by giving them further revelation that stretches them and requires them to put their trust in him, rather than in their understanding of all he is saying and doing. They need to understand him well enough to recognize that he is from God, but the very fact that he is from God means he is going to speak and act in ways that are not in keeping with this world. Being able to humbly remain in Jesus' teaching is a sign of a true disciple because it is evidence of openness and loyalty to Jesus.

Jesus promises that if they do remain in his teaching, you will know the truth and the truth will set you free (v. 32). This is surely one of the most abused texts in the Bible, for it is often cited with no regard for either the condition attached (remaining in Jesus' teachings) or the sort of freedom in view, namely, freedom from sin (v. 34). In Judaism it was the study of the law that set one free (Ps 119:45; m. 'Abot 3:5; 6:2), so Jesus is claiming for his teaching that which is recognized as true of God's own teaching. This implicit claim to divinity will be spoken clearly when he uses the divine I AM of himself at the end of this chapter. To know Jesus is to be liberated from all error and evil, for it is to know God himself, who is truth and purity and life.In Jesus' teaching and in the teaching of Judaism obedience to God is true freedom. This truth is quite different from the thinking of most people today, for it takes God, rather than our own personal feelings and ambitions, as the one good. The freedom in view is not a freedom to do whatever we wish according to the dictates of our own fallen selves, but a freedom from our fallen selves and the power and guidance to act in accordance with God himself, the source of all goodness and life.

The Jews who have believed in Jesus do not respond as true disciples. Instead of receiving with docility, they question see note on 2:20). They do not react to the implications of Jesus' identity (although they will do so before too long) but to the implications concerning their own condition (v. 33). At first their claim to have never been slaves of anyone (v. 33) seems delusory, since they probably said it within sight of Roman soldiers. In addition to Rome, Israel at one time or another had been subject to Egypt, Philistia, Assyria, Babylon, Greece and Syria. Yet though these nations had ruled over them, they "had never accepted the dominion of their conquerors or coalesced with them" (Westcott 1908:2:15). They had maintained their national identity as children of Abraham throughout, so their claim is not entirely groundless.

Their response is a typical example of their misunderstanding. They think Jesus is speaking of national freedom, but he is speaking of inner freedom, which he now makes clear (v. 34). Spiritual freedom is the freedom from sin, and sin, at its heart, is an alienation from God. This alienation is caused by sin in the sense of both error and evil. The antidote, faith, corresponds to both of these aspects since it is the appropriation of knowledge of God (which replaces the error) and of forgiveness for our rebellion against God (which overcomes the evil). Jesus is offering a restored relationship of intimacy with God, which brings life in place of death.

Jesus continues to work with them and give them revelation despite their misunderstanding, just as he did with the woman of Samaria (4:13, 16). As always in this Gospel, the focus comes back to Jesus' own identity: Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed (vv. 35-36). Jesus clearly contrasts his status in the family of God with that of the rest of humanity, which is enslaved to sin. Given this unique status he is the one who has freedom in God's household and is able to offer it to others. Only God can liberate us from sin, yet here Jesus says that he, the Son, can do so. Once again we see the implied claim regarding his unique oneness with the Father (cf. Chrysostom In John 54.2).

After he says the truth will liberate (v. 32), he says that he, the Son, will liberate (v. 36). In fact the Son is the truth, and as such he is the way to the Father (14:6). The freedom he is offering is, precisely, union with the Father, the source of all true life. The way to receive this life, with its freedom from sin's alienation and death, is to remain in his teaching. This involves an actual remaining in the Son himself, which includes remaining in his commands (15:1-17). In order to receive the power to become children of God we must receive the Son of God (1:12). We share in the Son's own relationship with the Father (17:20-26), a thought that Paul develops (Gal 4:6) with the same implications regarding freedom (Gal 5:1).

Jesus then returns to their claim to have Abraham for a father. They are indeed Abraham's descendants (sperma, v. 37), but they are not Abraham's children (tekna, v. 39) because they are seeking to kill Jesus (vv. 37, 40). Jesus is telling them what he has seen in the Father's presence (v. 38) and heard from God (v. 40), but they are not receptive because, he says, you have no room for my word (v. 37). In other words, once again we understand that they reject Jesus because of their inner disposition. Their problem is a form of spiritual heart disease. Their heart has no room for Jesus' revelation; there is no room at their inn, as it were. Since he is telling them what he has seen and heard from the Father, their inability to accommodate his word means they have no room for God himself in their lives. Yet again, we see their alienation from God.

The Great Physician is diagnosing their disease, and they are not happy about it. They have put faith in Jesus (v. 30), yet they rebel as he tries to help them become true disciples. When confronted with their inner disease they should have accepted his assessment and repented. This is what each of us must do as a disciple of Jesus, for each of us has inner disease that he desires to cure and that must be cured. His diagnosis is perfect, and he knows how to heal us. He does not have to leave us waiting while he goes in the next room to consult his medical books. Nor does he lack the resources to effect our cure. He lacks nothing except our signature on the permission slip to get on with the process. Discipleship includes allowing Jesus to deal with our inner brokenness and deadness. He will not be satisfied until we come out entirely clean and whole, a fact that is part of the good news. To be a disciple one needs not only the humility to receive what Jesus reveals about himself but also the ability to receive what he reveals about oneself. He always reveals in order to redeem. The judgment the light brings is meant to lead us to salvation, not condemnation. The sin is condemned in order to reveal it as sin and lead us to repentance. If we reject the diagnosis or the cure, then the light does indeed bring condemnation, for we have chosen to remain in our state of alienation from God, who is the one source of life.

Jesus sets his revelation of what he has seen in the Father's presence in opposition to their own activity of doing what you have heard from your father (v. 38). This obviously creates a contrast between his Father and theirs. They claim Abraham as their father (v. 39), to which Jesus responds by comparing their attempt to kill him with what Abraham did (vv. 39-40). This refers, most likely, to Abraham's reception of the heavenly visitors (Gen 18), since in this interchange Jesus is addressing his would-be disciples' receptivity.

The imitation of Abraham was discussed within Judaism in terms very similar to what we find in John. For example, the disciples of Abraham are said to have "a good eye and a humble spirit and a lowly soul," while disciples of Balaam have "an evil eye, a haughty spirit, and a proud soul" (m. 'Abot 5:19 [5:22 in some editions]). These descriptions correspond to John's description of the characteristics of Jesus' disciples and Jesus' opponents. Furthermore, at a later date some of the rabbis seem to explicitly compare Jesus to Balaam (b. Sanhedrin 106a-b). Thus, it is possible that the charges Jesus brings against these Jewish opponents are the same charges the Jewish opponents bring against Jesus and his followers. Both are claiming humbleness of heart in loyalty to Abraham and God, and both see in their adversaries those who are haughty and false to God, like Balaam, the archetypal false prophet in the Old Testament (Num 22--24; 31:16, Deut 23:5-6; Josh 24:9-10; Mic 6:5; 2 Pet 2:15; Jude 11; Rev 2:14; cf. Kuhn 1964a).

Behind the claim to have Abraham for a father is the claim to have God as a father, which becomes clear as we now approach the heart of the polemic. After Jesus says these folk are not behaving like Abraham, he adds, You are doing the things your own father does (v. 41). This obviously suggests someone besides Abraham is their father, and they take this, rightly, as an attack on their loyalty to God. They reject the charge, saying, We are not illegitimate children (v. 41). Literally, they say they are not born "from unchastity" (ek porneias). Instead, they claim that the only Father we have is God himself, which indicates their reference to unchastity alludes to the Old Testament notion that the covenant with God is like a marriage, and, correspondingly, idolatry is like unchastity (Deut 31:16; Jer 3:14; Hos 1:2; 2:1-13; 5:3; Philo De Migratione Abrahami 69; Numbers Rabbah 2:15-16). Central to the covenant was the idea that Israel was God's son (Ex 4:22) and that the Lord was Israel's father (Deut 32:6), "a theme reiterated constantly in the prophetic preaching (Isa lxiv 8; Mal ii 10)" (Brown 1966:364).

Jesus proceeds to attack precisely his opponents' claim to have God for a father (Jn 8:42-47). Here is the heart of the polemic between Jesus and these Jewish opponents: Jesus is one with God the Father, expressed here once again in terms of his origin and obedience (v. 42). It follows that anyone who rejects him is rejecting God the Father who sent him and to whom he is obedient. The rest of this section (vv. 43-47) works out the implications of this point. Jesus has said the opponents have no room for his word (v. 37), and now he says that they are not able to hear his word (v. 43). This inability (ou dynasthe) indicates that something is radically wrong with them. The next verse is the central accusation: they have the wrong father--they are of their father, the devil. The centrality of this verse is signaled by its place at the center of a chiasm:

John 9

Jesus Heals a Man Born Blind

1As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"
3"Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. 4As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. 5While I am in the world, I am the light of the world."
6Having said this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man's eyes. 7"Go," he told him, "wash in the Pool of Siloam" (this word means Sent). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.

John 9:1-7


Jesus Heals a Man Born Blind (9:1-7)

Jesus, taking the initiative, notices a man blind from birth. It is not said how Jesus and his followers know that he has been blind from birth. Perhaps the Lord knew preternaturally, or maybe he simply asked him. Once this information is known the disciples treat the man's condition as a theological problem. People commonly assumed that disease and disorders on both the personal and national level were due to sin, as summarized in the rabbinic saying from around A.D. 300 that "there is no death without sin and there is no suffering without iniquity" (b. shabbat 55a). But the case of a person born blind raises the question of whose sin caused this condition, that of his parents or of the person himself while in the womb. The idea that the parents' sins can affect their children finds support in the Old Testament itself (Ex 20:5), as does its antithesis (Ezek 18:20). Likewise the rabbis debated whether fetuses could sin, some arguing they could (for example, Genesis Rabbah 63:6) and others that they could not (Genesis Rabbah 34:10). Obviously, such issues were matters of debate within Judaism (cf. Schrage 1972:290-91), including the time during Jesus' ministry, as our text indicates.

The disciples' question was a request that Jesus comment on this debate. Jesus shifts the focus, and instead of addressing the cause of the man's blindness he speaks of its purpose: so that the work of God might be displayed in his life (v. 3). We should not be concerned with assigning blame. Trying to figure out the source of suffering in an individual's life is futile given our limited understanding, as the book of Job should teach us. Rather, here is one in whom Jesus can manifest God's works and thus reveal something of God himself and his purposes on earth. Jesus is being led by his Father to provide a sign that he is indeed the light of the world. In this sign he continues to reveal the Father's glory, that is, his love and mercy. For the ultimate truth about Jesus' works is that the Father, living in him, is doing his own works (14:10). This is what it means that his works are done from the Father (10:32) and in the Father's name (10:25, 37), revealing that Jesus is in the Father and the Father in him (10:38; cf. 10:30). As is always the case in John, Jesus' identity and his relation to the Father are at the heart of what is being said and done.

Jesus' statement touches on the theme of suffering. There is a sense in which every aspect of our lives, including our own suffering, is an occasion for the manifestation of God's glory and his purposes. Scripture describes four types of suffering viewed in terms of causes or purposes (cf. John Cassian Conferences 6.11): first, suffering as a proving or testing of our faith (Gen 22; Deut 8:2; Job); second, suffering meant for improvement, for our edification (Heb 12:5-8); third, suffering as punishment for sin (Deut 32:15-25; Jer 30:15; Jn 5:14); and fourth, suffering that shows forth God's glory, as here in our story and later in the raising of Lazarus (Jn 11:4). To these should be added a fifth form of suffering, that which comes from bearing witness to Christ, illustrated by what happens to this former blind man in being cast out of the synagogue.

Suffering is connected to sin (see comment on 5:14), at least generally if not always directly. But the present passage develops this connection further. Our sufferings are opportunities for God's grace. If our suffering is indeed a punishment for sin, then it becomes an occasion for repentance and thus the manifestation of God's grace as we are restored to fellowship with God. If our suffering is not a direct punishment for sin, then it is something God allows to happen in our lives, usually for reasons beyond our knowing, which nevertheless can help us die to self and find our true life in God. God does not allow anything to enter our lives that is not able to glorify him by drawing us into deeper intimacy with him and revealing his glory. When we cling to self and our own comfort we are led to resentment. When we trust in God's goodness and providence we are able to find comfort in God himself and not in our circumstances. Consequently, we can genuinely "give thanks in all circumstances" (1 Thess 5:18). This is not to say that misfortune and evil are God's will in general, but they are part of what it takes to live with him and unto him in this mess we have made through our rebellion against him and his rule over us. Our rebellion has brought disorder to every aspect of our existence, and the way back to the beauty and peace and order of his kingdom leads through suffering, as the cross makes clear. So we should not deny or avoid the reality of our suffering, but we should ask God to use it to further his purposes in us and through us. Some lessons only become ours in reality through suffering and the relationship with God that results from these tests. We can help others with the truths we learn in this way (cf. 2 Cor 1:3-11), and we can identify with the blind man and reflect on ways the Lord might display his works in us in the midst of our own sufferings.

In his keynote address Jesus said he does what he sees the Father doing, which includes in particular giving life and judging (5:19-30). Both features are evident here. In giving sight to his man Jesus reveals himself as the Messiah who brings the new quality of life that the prophets promised, seen now in terms of a relationship with himself. He brings light into this man, both physically and spiritually. In the conflict that erupts as a result of this act of divine grace and mercy, the other aspect of the coming of the light, judgment, is also clearly seen.

Jesus includes his disciples in such work when he says, we must do the work of him who sent me (9:4). Such involvement on the disciples' part has been hinted at earlier (3:11; 4:32-38; cf. 6:5) and will be developed more later (chaps. 13--17; 20:21). Jesus' disciples are to share in his relationship with the Father and thereby in the revelation of the Father's glory through doing the work of the Father and in the judgment of the world.

The fact that Jesus' disciples will do such works in the future--indeed, even greater works (14:12)--makes Jesus' next statement puzzling. He says this work is to go on as long as it is day for night is coming, when no one can work (9:4). Clues appear later in the Gospel as to when this night occurs. As Jesus approaches his Passion he will warn the people, "You are going to have the light just a little while longer" (12:35). When Judas leaves to betray Jesus it is said, "And it was night" (13:30). This is the beginning of the Passion, when Jesus will be taken from them for three days (cf. also Lk 22:53). When the light is absent it is night, and the night for John is when Jesus is absent, as Jesus himself says in verse 5: While I am in the world, I am the light of the world. Thus, the night seems to be the time when Jesus is absent from the world between his death and resurrection, since thereafter the Spirit will be present (20:22) who will continue Jesus' work through the disciples. Through this strong warning, which regards such a limited period of time, we are led to see the enormity of the darkness of those three days in salvation history.

Thus, Jesus' somewhat cryptic statement tells us that what is about to occur is a work of God made possible because Jesus, the light of the world, is present. The glory of God continues to be manifested in Jesus' activity, as it has from the outset (2:11).

Jesus' identity is revealed by the very act of healing a blind man, for a sign of the messianic age was the healing of blindness, both physical blindness (for example, Is 35:5) and spiritual blindness (for example, Is 42:18-19; cf. Westcott 1908:2:31). It is quite striking that the only references to healing of blindness in the Bible other than in Jesus' ministry are Tobit (Tobit 2:10; 11:7-13) and Paul (Acts 9:8, 17-19). Tobit may not have actually been blind, since his loss of sight resulted from getting bird droppings in his eyes. In the case of Paul it was Jesus who both blinded and restored him. So Jesus' healing of the blind stands out as a major sign of his identity and the significance of his coming.

Although the healing reveals Jesus as Messiah, the way Jesus goes about healing suggests his identity as Messiah goes beyond anyone's conception of the Messiah. The use of saliva for medicinal purposes was common in the ancient world (Barrett 1978:358), and Jesus himself uses it in his healings at times (Mk 7:33; 8:23). Clay also could have associations with pagan healing practices, in particular with the cult of Aesculapius (Rengstorf 1968:118-19). But for the healer to make clay out of spittle and use it for healing is unusual. John emphasizes this mud in the repeated recounting of the event by the former blind man (9:6, 11, 15) and also by including it where it is unnecessary (v. 14). K. H. Rengstorf suggests that this emphasis may be intended to draw a contrast with Aesculapius, but more likely the allusion is to the biblical picture of God as a potter and human beings as clay (for example, Job 10:9; Is 45:9; 64:8; Jer 18:6; Sirach 33:13; cf. Rom 9:21). Irenaeus picks up this allusion when he interprets this story in the light of the creation of man from the ground (Gen 2:7), for "the work of God [cf. Jn 9:3] is the fashioning of man" (Against Heresies 5.15.2). Thus, "that which the artificer, the Word, had omitted to form in the womb, [namely, the blind man's eyes], He then supplied in public, that the works of God might be manifested in him" (Irenaeus Against Heresies 5.15.2). In this way Jesus revealed his own glory, "for no small glory was it that He should be deemed the Architect of the creation" (Chrysostom In John 56.2). This story illustrates the truth revealed in John's prologue that Jesus, the Word, is the one through whom all things were made, having in himself the life that is "the light of men" (1:3-4). While many modern scholars would agree with C. K. Barrett that Irenaeus's interpretation is "improbable" (Barrett 1978:358), the association with the prologue actually makes it likely--all the more so as this story follows directly Jesus' clear expression of his claim to divinity (8:58).

The healing was not effected until the man obeyed Jesus' command: Go . . . wash in the Pool of Siloam (9:7). Why didn't Jesus just heal him on the spot, as he did others? Why send a blind man, in particular, on such a journey? There must be something involved here that contributes to the revealing of God's work. Perhaps the man's obedience is significant, revealing that he shares a chief characteristic of Jesus' true disciples. Like Naaman the Syrian (2 Kings 5:10-14), this man obeys God's command to go and wash and is healed. Also like Naaman, he is able to bear witness to God as a result (2 Kings 5:15). But John's parenthetical note that Siloam means Sent (v. 7) suggests more than the man's obedience is involved. References to Siloah, the stream associated with the pool of Siloam (Shiloah in Gen 49:10 [NIV margin]; Shiloah in Is 8:6), were seen as messianic (Genesis Rabbah 98:8; Gen 49:10 in Targum Onqelos; b. Sanhedrin 94b; 98b). This fits with the emphasis in John's Gospel on Jesus as the one sent from the Father, including such an emphasis in the immediate context (8:16, 18, 29, 42; 10:36). Thus, both the healing itself and the details involved point to Jesus as the Messiah. Here is an example of the triumph of the light over the darkness (1:5).

8His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, "Isn't this the same man who used to sit and beg?" 9Some claimed that he was.
Others said, "No, he only looks like him."
But he himself insisted, "I am the man."
10"How then were your eyes opened?" they demanded.
11He replied, "The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see."
12"Where is this man?" they asked him.
"I don't know," he said.

The Pharisees Investigate the Healing

13They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. 14Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man's eyes was a Sabbath. 15Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. "He put mud on my eyes," the man replied, "and I washed, and now I see."
16Some of the Pharisees said, "This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath."
But others asked, "How can a sinner do such miraculous signs?" So they were divided.
17Finally they turned again to the blind man, "What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened."
The man replied, "He is a prophet."

John 9:8-17


The Man's Neighbors Raise Questions (9:8-12)

The crowd had a hard time identifying Jesus (chaps. 7--8), and now they are divided in their recognition of this one whom he has healed (9:8-9). The man uses the same language Jesus has used to identify himself, ego eimi, though here it does not allude to the divine name but is used as an identification formula: I am the man (v. 9; see comment on 6:20).

Once they have established that he is indeed the blind beggar they had known, they ask the obvious question of how he came to have his sight (v. 10), and he recounts what happened (v. 11). This question will be asked four times in this story, stressing that something highly unusual has taken place, something that cannot be explained in the categories of this world (Beasley-Murray 1987:156). Unlike the man by the pool of Bethesda, this man does realize from the beginning that Jesus is the one who has healed him (v. 11; cf. 5:12-13), but he does not know where Jesus is (v. 12). This ignorance will be resolved soon enough. The deeper ignorance of the opponents, who do not know where Jesus is from (v. 30), does not improve as a result of this act of mercy and glory on Jesus' part. The man's admission of ignorance is an attribute of a true disciple, revealing him to be honest and humble. He stands in marked contrast to the Jewish opponents in this story, for they claim to know what in fact they realize they do not really know (v. 24; cf. v. 16). It is precisely this lack of integrity and self-awareness that Jesus criticizes in his conclusion to this story (vv. 39-41).

The Pharisees Interrogate the Man (9:13-17)

The neighbors bring the man to the Pharisees, presumably because something unusual has taken place and they are the recognized experts on the things of God. There does not seem to be anything sinister in their going to the Pharisees, unlike the contact between the Jewish opponents and the man at the pool of Bethesda (5:15).

The fact that this healing took place on the sabbath is mentioned in dramatic fashion midway in the story (v. 14; so also 5:9). In healing the blind man Jesus broke the sabbath rules in several ways, at least as they appear in later texts. Healing was permitted on the sabbath since "whenever there is doubt whether life is in danger this overrides the Sabbath" (m. Yoma 8:6; cf. b. Yoma 84b-85b; Lohse 1971:14-15). But, as in the case of the man at the pool of Bethesda, Jesus again heals what is not a life-threatening condition. Furthermore, just as his command to the man to carry his mat violated sabbath rules (5:11), so now Jesus' own activity of making mud violated the prohibition of kneading on the sabbath (m. shabbat 7:2). It is possible that his use of spittle also violated sabbath rules, since later at least "painting" the eye, that is, anointing it for healing, was clearly prohibited (b. 'Aboda Zara 28b), and some included the use of spittle in this prohibition (y. 'Aboda Zara 14d; cf. Beasley-Murray 1987:156-57). Finally, it was unlawful to take a journey of more than 2,000 cubits (1,000 yards) on the sabbath (cf. m. 'Erubin 4-5). A trip to Siloam and back from the nearest wall of the temple, for example, would be about 1,300 yards. It is perhaps likely that the trip to and from Siloam was further than was allowed, though we cannot be sure since we do not know where the healing took place. Jesus may be not just breaking the sabbath, but trampling on it, at least according to the views of these Jewish opponents!

The former blind man has to tell the story a second time, this time speaking to a new audience and adding the dramatic note that it was the sabbath. The crowd had wanted to know how the healing had happened out of understandable curiosity. The Pharisees now ask the same question but with different intent, for they want to determine whether any sabbath laws have been broken. The man recounts his healing with great brevity (v. 15). Many scholars see in this brevity an exasperation with having to retell his story, but this is only the first time he has told it to these people. Perhaps he senses their displeasure and sticks to the bare facts, as peasants have a tendency to do when interrogated by the junta--not an inappropriate image for this story, as we will see.

The Pharisees are divided over the man's witness (v. 16), a common occurrence when the light shines (cf. 7:43). The division among his opponents bears witness to Jesus' identity as the light of the world (cf. Lohse 1971:28). But here the light is shining through this man's testimony, providing an example of what all disciples are to do in the future (20:21).

The Pharisees face a dilemma for Jesus' sabbath breaking suggests he is not of God whereas his extraordinary power to heal suggests he is of God. Some of the Pharisees ask, How can a sinner do such miraculous signs? (v. 16). The plural, signs, indicates a larger familiarity with Jesus' activity. Perhaps we may assume that we are hearing the voice of Nicodemus, who has already said the same thing to Jesus himself (3:2). If so, then the one who came to Jesus at night is now sticking up for him once again (7:50-51) while it is day.

Divided amongst themselves, the Pharisees ask the blind man for his opinion of Jesus, given that it was his eyes Jesus had opened (v. 17). It is ironic that these Jewish leaders, who are so proud of their possession of the law and their ability to evaluate religious claims, are asking this man for his opinion on a religious matter. The Christians in John's own day would have loved this verse, since they were being persecuted by these same authorities for their loyalty to Jesus. This scene is like an underground political cartoon that deflates the self-important persecuting officials.The man responds that Jesus is a prophet. This is true as far as it goes, though it is not in itself adequate. He clearly thinks Jesus is on the side of God, despite such supposed abuse of the sabbath. The crowd has also viewed Jesus as a prophet (7:40), as have those so misguided as to want to make Jesus king (6:14). But the Samaritan woman also held this view (4:19), and Jesus went on to lead her into a deeper understanding of himself. Jesus will lead this man in the same way.

18The Jews still did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they sent for the man's parents. 19"Is this your son?" they asked. "Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?"
20"We know he is our son," the parents answered, "and we know he was born blind. 21But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don't know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself." 22His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews, for already the Jews had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Christ[1] would be put out of the synagogue. 23That was why his parents said, "He is of age; ask him."

John 9:18-23


The Pharisees Interrogate the Man's Parents (9:18-23)

Jesus' disregard for their sabbath regulations is so blatant the opponents cannot accept the idea that God would honor such lawlessness. So to reconcile what has happened to their presuppositions, they assume that the man must not have been blind. Not only do they reject the man's evaluation of Jesus as a prophet, they don't even accept his testimony about his own former condition! Instead, they investigate. They call in the parents and ask them to identify the man, confirm whether or not he was born blind and explain how he gained his sight (v. 19). The parents clarify that he is indeed their son who was born blind, but they refuse to speculate on how he gained sight. This is now the third time the question of "how" has been asked. But here the parents understand the question to be asking for more than what mechanism enabled him to receive his sight, because they say they know neither how nor by whom this happened. The issue now is by what or whose power this unheard of event took place. To answer this more serious "how" question would require a confession regarding Jesus and his relationship to God, as the explanation makes clear (v. 22). Such a confession has implications for one's life within the community, and the parents are not willing to be put out of the synagogue for the sake of Jesus. The parents fail to stand up for Jesus in the face of the Jewish opponents, so it is clear they do not model discipleship. Their son is of age, that is, thirteen years old or older, so he must answer such a question for himself.

This scene is full of tragedy, for these parents are not allowed to give thanks to God for the great thing he has done for their son. They must have agonized over his blindness and the begging he was forced into. Now he has been miraculously healed, and they must put aside the overwhelming parental joy and knuckle under to the goons from the committee for the investigation of un-Jewish activity, as it were. The parents' agony would have been very great, given the guilt over the possibility that it was their sin that had been responsible for their son's blindness. In such a situation Jesus' healing would have far-reaching implications concerning God's gracious acceptance of sinful humanity. Not only was their son released from the bondage of his blindness and its related life of begging, but they and their son would see themselves in a new relation to God. Yet they had to stifle all of these feelings of joy and gratitude when they were called in by the authorities for questioning.

The parents' fear stems from the threat that anyone who acknowl-edged that Jesus was the Christ would be put out of the synagogue (9:22). Such exclusion was used in the Old Testament (Ezra 10:8), and later sources speak of different degrees of exclusion that were exercised, from a week-long exclusion from the congregation, to a thirty-day exclusion, to an unlimited exclusion from the congregation with avoidance of all contact, to an exclusion from the entire community of Israel (Schrage 1971:848-49). At the time of Jesus one of the lighter forms may have been exercised, and this continued to be the case for some time, as Paul's example indicates: he was thrown out of local synagogues (for example, Acts 13:50; cf. 1 Thess 2:14-16) but was not viewed as outcast from the people of Israel.

Later in the first century, as the gulf between followers of Jesus and the synagogue widened, the harshest form of exclusion came into force. Many scholars see this reference to being put out of the synagogue (aposynagogos poieo, v. 22; 12:42; 16:2) as reflecting changes in the synagogue liturgy late in the first century. A curse against heretics, known as the Twelfth Benediction, or the birkat ha-minim, was added to the liturgy (cf. b. Berakot 28b-29a). This is taken as a way of smoking out the Christians and thus causing the separation between church and synagogue. John is probably writing late in the first century, and although such a separation was taking place then, it is unclear whether John is referring specifically to this addition to the liturgy and whether the addition had such an intent (Robinson 1985:72-80; Beasley-Murray 1987:lxxvi-lxxviii, 153-54; Carson 1991:369-72). After a careful study William Horbury concludes that the addition "was not decisive on its own in the separation of church and synagogue, but it gave solemn liturgical expression to a separation effected in the second half of the first century through the larger group of measures to which it belongs" (Horbury 1982:61; cf. Lindars 1981:49-54). Given such separation, this story would have particular relevance for John's first readers.

Under this threat of expulsion we can see the nucleus of a community gathering around Jesus, clearly distinct from these officials who represent what emerges after A.D. 70 as official Judaism. Jesus has withdrawn from the temple (8:59), and now he is gathering a group around him over against the structures and leadership of Israel. Jesus will set this process in place as this story continues (9:35). The full expression of this split will not emerge for some years, but its seed was planted, John says, by Jesus himself.

24A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. "Give glory to God,[2] " they said. "We know this man is a sinner."
25He replied, "Whether he is a sinner or not, I don't know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!"
26Then they asked him, "What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?"
27He answered, "I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?"
28Then they hurled insults at him and said, "You are this fellow's disciple! We are disciples of Moses! 29We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don't even know where he comes from."
30The man answered, "Now that is remarkable! You don't know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. 31We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly man who does his will. 32Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. 33If this man were not from God, he could do nothing."
34To this they replied, "You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!" And they threw him out.

John 9:24-34


The Pharisees Interrogate the Man a Second Time (9:24-34)

When the Jewish authorities put the "how" question to the man himself they get a very different response than they got from the parents, and the fur flies. They begin their interrogation on a solemn, formal note: Give glory to God (v. 24). This is not an invitation to sing a hymn of praise for his healing! The expression means the man is being exhorted to confess his guilt (cf. Josh 7:19; m. Sanhedrin 6:2). The man has told them the truth, but they don't really want the truth, they want their own answer. These people, whom Jesus called liars (8:55), are trying to force this man to lie, and they are doing so in the name of truth. (Double talk is not an invention of the twentieth century.) The terms they use are full of irony. These people who care only for the glory of men, not God (12:43; cf. 5:44), are telling him to give glory to God. They are demanding that he give glory to God by confessing his sin, but the man has given glory to God by bearing witness to Jesus.

They are being deceptive when they say, We know this man is a sinner (v. 24). Jesus has clearly broken their sabbath rules and thus could be labeled a sinner, but we have just been told they are divided over this very question (v. 16). John is showing us the deception and bullying of these ideologues who are in power. The Christians in John's day could identify with this man. Indeed, John himself had such an experience with some of these very same individuals (Acts 5:17-41). Those Christians in the world today who are persecuted for their faith can also identify with this man.

The authorities say Jesus is a sinner, but the man does not pick up on that. Instead he points to the one certain fact of the case--he was blind and now he sees (v. 25). Their supposed knowledge about Jesus is pitted against his certain knowledge of his healing. With this fact thrown in their faces again they are stymied. They can only repeat once more their questions of what happened (v. 26). They are at a loss, and the man pushes them. His reply is very cheeky: I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too? (v. 27). Here he reveals much about them and himself. They didn't listen, which Jesus has already pointed out (8:43, 47). And by asking if they want to become Jesus' disciples too he reveals that he himself has such a desire (cf. Michaels 1989:169). The man has progressed yet further in his Christology, for he here implies "that Jesus is his master" (Talbert 1992:160).

The man may simply be being cheeky when he asks whether they want to become Jesus' disciples, but in effect he is doing the work of an evangelist. Here is another offer of God's grace to those most deeply opposed to Jesus and alienated from God. In their furious reply they comment again that they are disciples of Moses (v. 28; cf. 5:45-47). The Pharisees insist that a choice must be made between being a disciple of Jesus and being a disciple of Moses, at least as they understand Moses. It is one of John's purposes to show how Moses and the Scriptures actually witness against the opponents and to Jesus (cf. 5:46). This story is preparing us for an important example of such a witness in the next chapter (10:34-36).

The Pharisees once again condemn Jesus by saying they do not know where he comes from (v. 29), a major theme of chapter 7. But now someone stands up to them and uses what they think is a charge against Jesus as a condemnation of themselves. He focuses on their ignorance. It is remarkable (v. 30) that those who know God and his ways so well would not be able to recognize one who is able to do what is unheard of--open the eyes of a man who had been blind from birth (v. 32). For a man born blind would have defective eyes, not just damaged eyes. A person born blind had no hope of sight, as this man well knew from experience. He picks up the very misgiving some of the Pharisees were having (v. 16) and drives it home: God listens to those who are godly and who do his will, not to sinners (v. 31). If this man were not from God, he could do nothing (v. 33). Earlier the man refused to say whether Jesus was a sinner (v. 25), but now he makes it very clear what he thinks.

The authorities do not deal with his argument. Instead, they cast him out, saying, You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us! (v. 34). Literally they say, "would you teach us," revealing again their unteachable spirit. Instead of facing up to the evidence the once-blind man has presented they throw back at him his blindness as evidence of his sinfulness. They refuse to entertain the possible implications of his healing, that is, that he is accepted by God. These who had asked him for his opinion earlier (v. 17) now show their true contempt for him. We get the impression that if he had gone along with them and attributed his healing to someone other than God, then they might not have thrown this in his face. But four times in this story Jesus has been referred to directly or indirectly as a sinner. This is the only place in John that this word occurs. So we have the Master referred to as a sinner and the one who confesses him suffering the same fate. Such a fate awaits all of Jesus' disciples, as he will make clear later (15:18-25). Again we see this man as a model disciple (cf. Chrysostom In John 58.3-4).

So the issue comes down to who is the real sinner, Jesus and his disciple or the Jewish authorities. The impasse these leaders face is the same that faced Saul of Tarsus when Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus. To accept Jesus means a complete rethinking of the law for a Pharisee. The reality of the law and the reality of Jesus come up against one another, and one of them has to budge. Jesus' approach to the law is only appropriate if he is God himself. This has been illustrated by the modern rabbi and prolific scholar Jacob Neusner. In his book A Rabbi Talks with Jesus, Neusner puts himself back in the days of Jesus and watches and listens to him as Matthew's Gospel records his life. He asks himself whether he would have been a follower of Jesus and concludes he would not. The reason is Jesus' use of the Torah. He would part from Jesus, saying, "Yours is not the Torah of Moses, and all I have from God, and all I ever need from God, is that one Torah of Moses" (Neusner 1993:3). The main problem is that "Jesus has asked for what the Torah does not accord to anyone but God" (Neusner 1993:32; cf., e.g., pp. 53, 74). Neusner illustrates that the main sticking point, as we've seen in John's Gospel, is Jesus' view of himself.

With these implications regarding the law this story continues the development of the theme in chapter 5 that the law bears witness to Jesus. In chapters 6--8 we find Jesus replacing the temple and its festivals with himself. Now we see that the law as regulation is also superseded in Jesus. "The Law in condemning Jesus had condemned itself (Gal. 3.10-14); this theme forms the theological basis of the present chapter. The Law condemns itself, and so do its exponents, when they try and condemn Jesus" (Barrett 1978:362). Here is the great divide between Jesus and his Jewish opponents, with each side claiming loyalty to the Torah rightly interpreted.

On the surface this story may look like a showdown between personal experience and Scripture, but it is more complicated than that. The man's statement that if Jesus were not from God, he could do nothing (v. 33) is not true, strictly speaking. The works of the Egyptian magicians show as much (Ex 7:11, 22; 8:7). Indeed, Jesus warns against false Christs and false prophets who "will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect" (Mt 24:24) and speaks of those who prophesy in his name, cast out demons in his name and do many mighty works in his name, whom he does not know at all (Mt 7:22-23). So much for experience being an infallible guide! But then the Scriptures, in and of themselves, are not an infallible guide either, as the example of the Jewish opponents reveal. It depends on one's interpretation. The Christian claim is that the Scriptures are an organic whole that make sense when interpreted in the light of Jesus the Christ under the guidance the Spirit has provided the church (Jn 14:26; 15:26). The bottom line is that we need God to guide our understanding of both the Scripture and our experience. Once again we see the importance of humility and openness to God as a core attribute of true discipleship. If the opponents of Jesus had really been loyal to God, open to him and holding to his truth, then they would have been able to see him when he came, as did Nathanael, the true Israelite (1:45-49).

Spiritual Blindness

35Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?"
36"Who is he, sir?" the man asked. "Tell me so that I may believe in him."
37Jesus said, "You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you."
38Then the man said, "Lord, I believe," and he worshiped him.

John 9:35-38


Jesus Leads the Man to Faith (9:35-38)

Jesus finds the one who has been thrown out, acting like the Good Shepherd he will soon claim to be. Here is the tenderness and mercy of God in action, but such love is never sentimental in this Gospel. When Jesus finds the man he confronts him with another of his testing questions, Do you believe in the Son of Man? (v. 35). Some Jews at this time associated the Son of Man of Daniel 7 with the Davidic Messiah (J. Collins 1995:189), so the man could think Jesus was asking whether he believed in the Messiah. He obviously would not understand the more specific meaning of the Son of Man in John, namely, the Messiah from heaven who brings God's life and judgment, especially through the cross (see comments on 3:13-14 and 5:27).

The man responds in a way that reveals his desire to believe (v. 36). He does not ask what the Son of Man is, he asks who he is. Belief is not merely an intellectual assent to a proposition, but an attachment of trust to an individual as the one who comes from God. Such an expression of a "longing and inquiring soul" (Chrysostom In John 59.1) does not go unanswered any more than the openness and desire of the Samaritan woman did (4:25-26). Jesus responds, You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you (v. 37), a particularly poignant way of speaking to one who has only been able to see anything at all for a very short time. Here is a crucial step in the development of this relationship: Jesus has cured him and found him, but he now reveals something of his identity to the man. The man has spoken of Jesus as a prophet (v. 17), but will the man accept Jesus on Jesus' own terms? True faith requires such a humble acceptance, as John emphasizes throughout this Gospel.

The man responds with faith: Then the man said, "Lord, I believe," and he worshiped him (v. 38). The word for Lord (kyrios) could simply mean "sir," (cf. 4:11; 12:21). Likewise, the word for worshiped (proskyneo) means to fall down and do homage to either God or a human being (Greeven 1968:758-63), and thus could refer to homage due to a man of God rather than God himself. But H. Greeven has argued that the word is always used in the New Testament for adoration of "something--truly or supposedly--divine" (Greeven 1968:763). Certainly the other uses in John signify worship of God (4:20-24; 12:20). Jesus has been presented in divine categories with increased emphasis at the end of chapter 8. But the title "Son of Man" would not convey such a notion in Jewish ears. So while the language used in the man's response to Jesus continues the presentation of the man as a model disciple, it is unclear how much of all this he grasped at the time. He has been progressing as a true disciple, moving from knowledge of Jesus' name (v. 11), to confession of him as a prophet (v. 17), to bearing witness that Jesus is one come from God (v. 33) and finally to accepting his claim to be the Son of Man (vv. 35-38; cf. Brown 1966:377; Westcott 1908:2:37). So even if he does not understand the full significance of his confession and homage to Jesus, he is accepting Jesus on Jesus' own terms and thus placing himself in the position to receive further revelation and grow in his understanding of Jesus and his relationship with him. None of the disciples have understood with any real depth the identity of Jesus or the nature of the salvation he brings. But here in this former blind man we have the anticipation of Thomas' dramatic confession of Jesus as Lord and God (20:28).

39Jesus said, "For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind."
40Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, "What? Are we blind too?"
41Jesus said, "If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.

John 9:39-41


Jesus Comments on the Healing and Its Aftermath (9:39-41)

We have seen a man go through the stages of becoming a disciple of Jesus, but we have also seen Jesus' opponents' actions progress from debate and division (v. 16) to judgment (v. 24) and on to expulsion of one who would be a disciple of Jesus (v. 34; cf. Westcott 1908:2:36). Jesus' concluding comment puts both of these results in perspective: For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind (v. 39). Here, in a key definition, Jesus says his judgment both enlightens and blinds. He has not come for judgment in the sense of condemnation (3:17), but such condemnation does take place as he who is the light of the world is revealed. When the light shines, judgment takes place; however, salvation comes as well, for when the light of the world dawns hearts are revealed and the truth about individuals' relationships with God is brought into the open. The same sun that melts wax, hardens clay (Origen On First Principles 3.1.11). The opponents have hard hearts--they reject God's offer of mercy and his call to repentance that come through his chastisement (cf. Jer 5:3; 7:25-26; 19:15; Zech 7:11-12; Rev 9:20-21; 16:9-11). Such hardness of heart darkens their minds and alienates them from the life of God (Eph 4:18). The sight they think they have must be taken from them if they are to receive true sight, which sees the true light (Jn 8:12; see comments on 10:1, 8).

That Jesus is using this healing of physical blindness to speak of spiritual conditions is clear to some of the Pharisees who were near Jesus. They are not physically blind, but they ask, What? Are we blind too? (v. 40). Here is revealed their self-perception as those who are spiritually illumined with the knowledge of God. They are the ones who think they know (3:2; 8:52; 9:24, 29), but they have a knowledge that does not recognize Jesus for who he is. So Jesus responds with words of great grace--hard words, but words that can break through and lead them into the true light: If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains (v. 41). Clearly, it is their claim to have knowledge that is the dilemma. They do not recognize their need; there is no poverty of spirit (Mt 5:3).

We again see the great need for humility, openness and recognition of need. The man has emphasized his ignorance (vv. 25, 36), while they have emphasized their knowledge (vv. 16, 22, 29). Those who settle into blindness without a disposition of openness to God are "incurable since they have deliberately rejected the only cure that exists" (Barrett 1978:366). In a similar situation Jesus refers to blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Mk 3:29), since in that case Jesus' opponents were seeing his gracious acts and saying they were the work of the Beelzebub, the prince of demons. Such a sin is unforgivable precisely because the person is looking at the character and work of the one who is all good and calling it evil. This perception prevents one from turning to God. For, on the one hand, if one does turn to Christ while thinking Christ represents evil, then that person in his or her own mind is choosing evil and thus sinning (cf. Rom 14:23). If, on the other hand, one refuses to embrace evil but thinks that Jesus is evil, then obviously one cannot turn to him. Either way one has precluded repentance and thereby shut oneself off from forgiveness. God offers forgiveness for all sin. The only sin that cannot be forgiven is the unrepented sin. Thus, until one has a right view of Jesus and comes to him for forgiveness, one remains in one's sin, not because God will not forgive, but because such a one refuses to accept the forgiveness in accordance with God's reality in Christ.

So here at the end of the story we see that spiritual blindness is the real sin, not physical blindness, as the disciples and the Pharisees had thought (vv. 2, 34; cf. Chrysostom In John 56.1). Jesus has given sight to a man born blind, but this is a sign of the more significant spiritual light that he provides for those who are spiritually blind. In the very act of mercy, the giving of physical and spiritual sight to this blind man, Jesus continues to reveal the glory of God, that is, his love. Ironically, as earlier (5:1-18), the very brightness of the light that is shining brings a reaction from those who see such signs but do not get it. In their judgment and condemnation of Jesus they stand self-judged and self-condemned.

But even this judgment reveals God's glory. It does so, first, because it is indeed an offer of mercy that they are rejecting. Second, his mercy is seen in the care he provides to those who do receive him, for in condemning their opponents he is protecting his people. As in the case of Pharaoh, God's hardening of one who rejected his call to repentance revealed God's own glory as the one greater than Pharaoh and as the one who redeems his people from evil (Ex 7:3, 14; 14:4, 17). The evil in the present story is the blindness of Jesus' opponents, which is alienation from God. There is a veil over the opponents' hearts (cf. 2 Cor 3:15). But there is also evil in their preventing people from recognizing Jesus and believing in him. God must condemn such evil not only because it is not in keeping with his reality, but also because it is opposing his work in the lives of those who are open to him.

Jesus' condemnation of the Pharisees at the conclusion of this story reveals their alienation from God more clearly, and it also says something about those who, like the blind man, do come to faith in Jesus. This story is an encouragement to stand up and bear witness, as we have seen, and it also illustrates the experience of everyone who becomes a true disciple. Every human being is in the condition of this man spiritually--born blind and in need of enlightenment. It is not surprising, therefore, that the ancient church saw in this story a depiction of baptism, since baptism was known as enlightenment. Some modern scholars continue to find such allusions here (Brown 1966:380-82) or, in a similar way, to conversion (Michaels 1989:160, 168). This story describes one who is in the process of being born from above, becoming capable of seeing the kingdom of God present in the presence of the King (Jn 3:3). We are all in need of the faith that is itself an organ of spiritual perception similar to what Paul refers to as the "eyes of the heart" (Eph 1:18; cf. Schnackenburg 1980b:255). Unless God opens our eyes we will not see, but he is offering sight to all who will receive it--such is the biblical antinomy of divine sovereignty and human responsibility.

This coming to faith is the crucial point of this story. In the physical healing of the man's eyes we see the agent of creation at work within his world. But the even more astounding work takes place as Jesus leads the man to faith in himself, for this is not just a creative work on the man's body, but the bringing of that essential life that was lost in Eden. That life had existed by virtue of the relationship of intimacy between Creator and created, and now in this man's worship of God in Jesus we see the return to the proper relationship that had been severed by the rebellion. The worship of the man who has found God in Christ is his entrance into eternal life (17:3).

There is also a corporate dimension to this story. Jesus has departed from the temple (8:59), and now a new society is being formed around him in separation from what will become official Judaism. He has revealed himself to people earlier in the Gospel and has accepted spontaneous expressions of faith, but now he takes it a step further and "proposes a test of fellowship" (Westcott 1908:2:43); that is, he offers himself as an object of faith with a specific confession attached: Do you believe in the Son of Man? (v. 35). This is a new development in the process of the light shining and the polarization which that causes. "The separation between the old and the new was now consummated, when the rejected of `the Jews' sank prostrate at the feet of the Son of man" (Westcott 1908:2:44). Jesus is the Good Shepherd of a flock that is distinct from official Judaism, a theme developed in the next chapter.

So this story offers many challenges. We need to realize our own utter poverty, blindness and need apart from Christ. We need to see with his eyes the desperate condition of all who have not been illumined by him, the light of the world. We need to consider before God whether there are ways we reject the evidence of our own experience because we have a faulty understanding of him and his ways. We need to consider before God whether we have God too figured out--or, in this day, whether we have the opposite tendency to think that everything is up for grabs and there is no objective truth or that the Scriptures are not clear and coherent when interpreted in the light of the guidance the Spirit has given to the church. Finally, among many other connections that might be made, we need Jesus to be our center of reference, like this blind man did, so that we are stable, secure and bold no matter what hassles come to us due to our relationship with Jesus, for we have experienced the goodness and mercy of God in Jesus.

The Shepherd and His Flock

1"I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. 3The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a strangers voice." 6Jesus used this figure of speech, but they did not understand what he was telling them.

John 10:1-6


Jesus Contrasts the Good Shepherd with the Thieves and Robbers (10:1-6)

Jesus has used divine language when speaking of himself (8:58) and backed it up with a healing unheard of since the world began (9:32), thereby revealing himself as the agent of creation. By referring to himself as the shepherd of the flock he is appropriating further divine language. In the Old Testament, the leaders of the people are called shepherds, especially Moses (Ps 77:20) and David (Ps 78:70-72; Ezek 34:23). But God is the shepherd par excellence (for example, Ps 80:1; cf. Jeremias 1968:488-89; Barrett 1978:373-74). Jeremiah and Ezekiel in particular develop the shepherd motif to express how God cares for his people and his condemnation of false and evil rulers. God will condemn the false shepherds (Jer 23:1-2; Ezek 34:1-10) and appoint faithful shepherds to tend his flock after the manner of his own heart (Jer 3:15; 23:4). Indeed, the coming Davidic Messiah will be God's shepherd for his flock (Ezek 34:23-24), a prophecy given in the context of God's announcement that he himself will come to shepherd his flock. He will search for his scattered flock, gather them from the nations and lead them to good pasture on the mountains of Israel. He will tend to the weak and injured but will judge those sheep who only look after themselves and harm the others (Ezek 34:11-22).

In these passages God shepherds through his designated leaders. Jesus is claiming such a role for himself, but in a way unlike anything seen before. He has made clear claims to divinity and messiahship, which will be repeated shortly (Jn 10:22-39). So when he claims to be the shepherd he is claiming that Messiah has come and in him God himself has come to shepherd his people.

Jesus begins with a scene from everyday life, though the exact nature of this scene is uncertain. Kenneth Bailey (1993) suggests the background is from village life where each family owns a couple of sheep for personal use. The animals stay at night in the courtyard of the family's house (aule, paraphrased in the NIV as sheep pen, v. 1). Families on a given street agree as to who will shepherd their combined flock, often designating one or more of the children. In the morning this shepherd goes down the street to gather the sheep. The person at the door recognizes the shepherd and opens the door for the sheep to pass through. The shepherd has a distinct call or whistle, sometimes using a small flute, which the sheep recognize and follow. When several flocks end up at a watering place at the same time and mingle together, they are easily separated again by the shepherd, who gives his call as he starts to walk away. In addition to their own distinctive call, some shepherds also give their sheep names (Bailey 1993:10; cf. Beasley-Murray 1987:168).

This interpretation assumes there is a single flock composed of the sheep from several families that have been gathered from the courtyards of the various houses. However, the presence of a watchman (v. 3; literally, "doorkeeper," thyroros) seems unlikely in the home of a village family, and later in Jesus' application he speaks of a single courtyard (v. 16). So instead of several courtyards and a single flock, the picture seems to be of a larger courtyard or enclosure (possibly a sheep pen as the NIV suggests) in which the sheep of several flocks are kept. In the morning a shepherd comes to collect the sheep of his flock and is able to do so in the way Bailey describes.

Jesus contrasts those who enter through the gate and those who do not (vv. 1-2). The one who has legitimate business and authorization enters in the proper fashion, while those without authorization use underhanded means. These thieves and robbers do not have in mind the good of the sheep but rather selfish ends of their own. The shepherd is recognized by the one who guards the fold, and so his entrance is natural, out in the open, without forcing. Such has been Jesus' entrance into this world and amongst his own people. He has come in the appropriate manner, having been sent by the Father, in contrast to the Jewish leaders who are rejecting Jesus.

Jesus' call is a fulfillment of Wisdom's crying out in the streets to see if anyone hears and responds (Prov 1:20-21). The focus here, however, is not on a general call, for he calls his own sheep by name (v. 3). Each particular sheep is known by this shepherd. They are "not simply units in a flock" (Westcott 1908:2:51).

Jesus refers to bringing out all his own (v. 4). The word for brought out (ekballo) is the same word used to describe the leaders' throwing the man out of the synagogue (9:34-35). The picture of the shepherd who leads them out (v. 3) to find pasture and water thus interprets what has just occurred to the man born blind. Jesus goes on ahead of his sheep, calling them as Bailey has described, and they follow him because they know his voice (v. 4). They don't follow strangers; indeed, they flee from them, because they do not recognize a stranger's voice (v. 5). The word for know and recognize are the same word in Greek (oida), so the sheep will be known by whom they know. Here is a beautiful picture of both divine sovereignty in the shepherd's call and the human response in the hearing, knowing and following by the sheep. We also find the theme of discernment, since there are more voices calling to them than just their own shepherd's. Following Jesus means refusing to follow others who are claiming to be shepherds. Put in this perspective, the expulsion from the synagogue is no great hardship--indeed, Jesus' sheep will actually run away from strangers.

Jesus spoke this figure of speech to the Pharisees (v. 6, autois; ["to them"], left out of the NIV), but they did not get it. These are people who claim to be able to see (9:40-41), but their inability to understand Jesus is yet another example of their spiritual blindness. The word for figure of speech (paroimia) refers to an obscure saying that needs to be interpreted (cf. Jn 16:25, 29, Hauck 1967a:856). It is not just a figure of speech or a comparison, but a saying that is loaded with significance--the verbal equivalent of Jesus' signs. Little that Jesus says in this Gospel is not conveyed in this manner, as he will admit at the end of his teaching (16:25).

Jesus uses the shepherd motif to interpret what has just taken place with the former blind man. Judaism is described as a sheep pen, but not all the sheep in the pen belong to Jesus' flock. They are separated out as they recognize his voice and follow him out from the sheep pen. Jesus is gathering his flock together from the pen of official Judaism.

7Therefore Jesus said again, "I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. 8All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.[1] He will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

John 10:7-10


Jesus Is the Gate for the Sheep (10:7-10)

Because these Jewish leaders did not understand what Jesus was saying he goes back over it again from a different perspective. In this repetition we see God's graciousness, the same graciousness that caused the word of the Lord to come a second time to Jonah (Jon 3:1) and suffered with Israel's waywardness throughout her history. It is the same graciousness we each depend on every day of our lives.

In this second statement Jesus says, I am the gate for the sheep (v. 7). The scene has shifted from the village to the open field. In the summer sheep are sometimes kept out in the pasture overnight. The pen used is simply an enclosure made of piled rocks. There is neither roof nor door, but thorns along the top of the rock walls protect the sheep from wild animals, and the shepherd himself sleeps in the entrance, providing a door (cf. Bailey 1993:11; Beasley-Murray 1987:169). So when Jesus says he is the gate for the sheep (v. 7) he is still using the image of a shepherd, but applying it directly to himself. From this picture of a shepherd sleeping in the entrance we would expect Jesus' role to be the protector of the sheep. Jesus does indeed protect his own (cf. 6:39; 17:12), but the image is developed here in a surprising way. The sheep are to enter through Jesus (v. 9), something not true of the shepherd sleeping in the entrance of a summer shelter! So the image is not that of a door as a barrier for protection, but of a door as a passageway.

Jesus also refines his earlier reference to the thief and robber (v. 1), saying, All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers (v. 8). This is a sweeping generalization. If it were not for references to Moses, the prophets and John the Baptist as witnesses to Jesus (for example, 1:17, 19-36; 5:39), then they would seem to be included in the category of all who ever came before me. But the context of our passage is the condemnation of the Jewish rulers, some of whom have rejected Jesus and others who have faith in him. This sweeping statement shows that these leaders are members of a much larger group. Jesus, the one mediator of salvation, contrasts himself with all others who would claim to be "mediators of salvation" (Beasley-Murray 1987:170). The reason Moses, the law, the prophets and John the Baptist are not included in this condemnation is precisely because they bear witness to Jesus. All who do not bear witness to Jesus, who alone has seen the Father and makes him known (1:18), are not of the truth. They do not bring blessing but rather take it away, like a thief or a robber.

So we see the contrast between different ways of salvation. The Jewish leaders have rejected Jesus on the basis of their knowledge of God and his ways. They have expelled the man healed in chapter 9 from the people of God on the basis of his confession of Jesus. They believe they have consigned the former blind man to death, that is, to separation from God and his people. But Jesus has found him and incorporated him into his own company.

Jesus says the one who enters through him (through me is emphatic in the Greek) will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture (v. 9). This is said to be true of each individual, as just illustrated by the former blind man--the shepherd knows each sheep by name (v. 3). The salvation spoken of refers to protection from the sheep's enemies, here understood to be false teachers as typified by the Jewish opponents. Such teachers threaten death by keeping people from a true knowledge of God, who is himself the sole source of life.

The one who enters by Jesus has the liberty to come in and go out. This is an Old Testament expression often used in political and military contexts to refer to leadership (for example, Deut 31:2, paraphrased in the NIV as "to lead you"), but it is also used elsewhere in a more general sense to refer to the entirety of one's daily activities (Deut 28:6, 19; Ps 121:8; cf. Acts 1:21). Jesus' sheep have the freedom to live their lives in his presence. Both their going out and their coming in is through him. In this way he fulfills the type of Joshua as described by Moses (Jesus is actually the name Joshua in Greek): "Moses said to the Lord, `May the Lord, the God of the spirits of all mankind, appoint a man over this community to go out and come in before them, one who will lead them out and bring them in, so the Lord's people will not be like sheep without a shepherd'" (Num 27:15-17; cf. Jn 10:18). The freedom of Jesus' sheep to go out and come in reflects Jesus' own freedom, for their going out and coming in are not on their own but are a part of their following him.

As he brings them into the safety of his fold and leads them out to find food and water they find pasture (v. 9). The Good Shepherd will make them "lie down in green pastures" and lead them "beside quiet waters," preparing a table in the presence of their enemies (Ps 23:2, 3, 5). Through Jesus they receive their "daily bread" (Mt 6:11; Lk 11:3), that which is needed for life with God, for he offers the bread of life (Jn 6:35-58) and living water (7:38). Jesus has spoken repeatedly of the provision of life as the purpose of his coming (3:15; 4:14; 5:21, 24, 40; 6:27, 33, 35, 40, 47, 51, 54; 8:12), and now he focuses this key theme when he says, I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full (10:10). In the next section (vv. 11-18) he will explain further this life he has come to offer, which will be illustrated in the raising of Lazarus (chap. 11).

In contrast to the protection, freedom and pasture that come from entering through Jesus are the stealing, death and destruction brought by the thief (v. 10). One has a positive effect on the sheep, whereas the effect of the other is negative. The thief acts for his own selfish ends and to the detriment of the sheep. Jesus, however, serves the sheep by providing for them the way of life, which he will do, we learn in the next section, at the cost of his own life. Thus, the contrast with the thief is complete.

Those who enter through Jesus find life, which means we all begin on the outside and need to enter through him. We are all sheep in need of a shepherd, just as we all, like the man born blind, are in need of the light. Jesus is declaring that he "mediates membership of the Messianic community and reception of the promised blessings of salvation, that is, deliverance from judgment, . . . citizenship in the divine community of salvation . . . and eternal life" (Jeremias 1965:180). The salvation he brings is personal but not merely individual: he knows each sheep by name, but salvation is membership in a community, the community that is called and guided and provided for by Christ. The flock of Christ is neither an aggregate of isolated, autonomous individuals nor a faceless corporation, but a community in which each member is taken up into the life of God to form with others a single whole as branches on a vine (15:1). By referring to himself as the shepherd Jesus is claiming to be the leader of this new community.

When Jacob had his vision he said, "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven" (Gen 28:17). John wants us to have the same response. How awesome is this place--and the place is now this person in our midst, Jesus, the Son of God, the gate leading to God.

11"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
14"I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me-- 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father--and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life--only to take it up again. 18No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father."
John 10:11-18


The Good Shepherd Lays Down His Life for His Sheep (10:11-18)

Jesus says, I am the good shepherd (v. 11), an "I am" saying that, like the others, ultimately concerns the issue of life. He has just promised life to the full (v. 10), and he now says this life comes through his death (vv. 11, 15, 17-18). Once again he starts with a familiar image in his audience's life, since shepherds commonly had to deal with the problem of wild animals (cf. Gen 31:39; 1 Sam 17:34-37). A good shepherd, one who is worthy of admiration (kalos), would risk his life to protect the sheep. But Jesus does not merely risk his life; he consciously gives his life for the sake of his sheep (vv. 15, 17-18; cf. Jeremias 1968:496 104).

The idea of a voluntary and vicarious death for the sheep is not found in the Old Testament nor elsewhere (Jeremias 1968:496-97; Barrett 1978:374). The closest conceptual background is that of the suffering servant of Isaiah 53 (Brown 1966:398; Westcott 1908:2:57). While this servant is likened to a sheep rather than a shepherd (Is 53:7), it is said of him that "the Lord makes his life a guilt offering" (Is 53:10). The expression in John 10, lays down his life (tithemi ten psychen), could be taken as a translation of "makes his life" (sim naphsho, Is 53:10; Jeremias 1967c:710). For the sheep (hyper ton probaton) does not in itself necessarily speak of sacrifice, but in John it does (Barrett 1978:375). In every place the preposition hyper ("for") is used in John (6:51; 10:11, 15; 11:50-52; 13:37-38; 15:13; 17:19; 18:14), with two exceptions (1:30; 11:4), it is used of sacrifice in which "the death envisaged is on behalf of someone else" (Carson 1991:386). So again Jesus' death is seen to be central to his task.

Another part of the conceptual background comes from the prophet Zechariah, who contrasts two shepherds. One is the messianic shepherd-king who is rejected by the people, which, in turn, results in their condemnation (Zech 11:4-14). The second is the worthless shepherd who deserts the flock (Zech 11:4-17). God's messianic shepherd will be struck down, causing the sheep to be scattered and leading to the judgment and refining of God's people (Zech 13:7-9). This rejection by the leaders of the people and their own condemnation is echoed in John, as is the striking of the shepherd, though with a different effect. It will indeed lead to the scattering of Jesus' flock for a brief time, but it will also be central in the gathering of his own flock from among the nations: "But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself" (Jn 12:32).

This death makes him the shepherd that is good (kalos). This word refers in such a context to that which is beautiful, noble, honorable, worthy of praise. In other words, Jesus is fulfilling his job as a shepherd in an exemplary fashion so that such goodness is able to be perceived (Grundmann 1965:548). He is the admirable shepherd, and there is something admirable, heroic and attractive in his death. Consequently, it is in his death that he will draw all men to himself (12:32). The beauty of the Lord's character attracts those whose hearts are able to receive divine beauty. This is far more than an admirable death of a martyr. For in this death we see the beauty of God himself, since God is love, and love, as John says (1 Jn 3:16), is the laying down of life. It is precisely because he was in the form of God that he poured himself out and laid down his life (Phil 2:6-8; cf. C. F. D. Moule 1972:97). In Jesus we see the divine character, and what we see is beautiful. When we are able to really see God as Jesus has revealed him we cannot help praising him if we have hearts that are open to God. Such a vision of God's beauty is at the heart of all true worship.

Jesus goes on to contrast the shepherd who will risk his life for the sheep with a hireling who runs from the wolf and leaves the sheep behind to be attacked (harpazei, literally, "snatched" or "carried off") and scattered. They are not his sheep, and he does not care about them (Jn 10:12-13). This picture is not so much an allusion of Ezekiel 34 as a development from it. In Ezekiel the danger from wild animals arises after the sheep have been scattered (Ezek 34:5, 8), and the false shepherds are indeed shepherds, though like the hireling they care nothing for the sheep. So there are some general associations with Ezekiel, which may suggest that Jesus is continuing his condemnation of the leadership of Israel. But the main point seems to focus on the character of the Good Shepherd, specifically, his care for the sheep.

His care for the sheep addresses two problems, the lack of care on the part of the hireling and the threat of scattering by the wolf. Elsewhere the wolf is an image of false teachers who come both from outside the community and from within (Mt 7:15; Acts 20:29-30). Such a problem was present in John's day in Ephesus, since Paul's prediction to the Ephesian elders (Acts 20:29-30) was already coming to pass in Paul's own day (cf. 1 Tim 1:3) and continued in John's time (cf. 1 John). Likewise, the problem of hirelings continued in the church, as seen in Peter's exhortation to the elders to shepherd God's flock willingly and not just for money (1 Pet 5:2).

The themes introduced in a general way (Jn 10:11-13) are then personalized and developed (10:14-18). Jesus' knowledge of his flock and their knowledge of him (v. 14) are compared to the knowledge the Father and the Son have of one another (v. 15). The conjunction translated just as (kathos) is most often used as a comparative, but it can have a causal sense (Wallace 1996:674). Both senses are true here, for "the relationship between God the Father and his Son is the original model and reason for Jesus' fellowship with his own" (Schnackenburg 1980b:297). As always, Jesus' identity as the Son and his relationship with the Father are crucial for understanding what is being said.

This knowledge is not simply a knowledge about one another or merely the knowledge of an acquaintance. Rather, it is an intimacy that is love. The intimacy of the Father and the Son is so close it is described as a oneness (10:30), and a similar oneness of life is affirmed between Jesus and his disciples (for example, 15:1-7). The believer is not stirred into some cosmic soup, as in false forms of mysticism, but rather there is a radical oneness that does not obliterate the distinctness of the person. As the holy Trinity is both One and Three, so the believer is one with God and yet distinct from God. This theme of intimacy has been introduced earlier, for example in Jesus' teaching that his followers must eat his flesh and drink his blood (see comments on 6:53-57), and it will be unpacked in detail in the discourse in the upper room (chaps. 13--17). Its inclusion here provides important clarification regarding the nature of the new community Jesus is bringing into existence. This closeness includes the most intimate of relations between Jesus and each of his followers, and it is part of the union with God that they enter into in Christ through membership in his flock.

This new community is based in his death (10:15). The very pattern of life in this new community is that of life laid down for one another, a cruciform life. The possibility of such a life and the power for such a life come through the life of the Son of God poured out on the cross, thereby uniting God and mankind by taking away the sin of the world and revealing the glory of God.

Before revealing more about his death, Jesus mentions that he has other sheep not of this sheep pen who must be brought also, so there shall be one flock and one shepherd (v. 16). The most natural reading, accepted by most commentators, is that Jesus is referring to sheep from outside the fold of Judaism. There are Gentiles who will listen to his voice and be joined to his flock. Thus, in this section that speaks of Jesus' founding a community apart from official Judaism, Jesus himself speaks to one of the greatest points of controversy in the earliest church. He does not clearly specify on what terms the Gentiles are to be included, and so the church later had to discern his will whether or not Gentiles must become converts to Judaism in order to join his flock. But the present context, which describes a follower who has been expelled from the synagogue, hints at the answer. Most recent scholars think John is simply giving Jesus some lines that would address the later situation, but the potential ambiguity of the figure is typical of Jesus himself (cf. 21:22-23).

They are already his sheep because they have been given to him by the Father (v. 16; cf. 10:29; 6:37-39; 17:2, 6, 24; Beasley-Murray 1987:171), yet they must hear his call and respond. So once again we see both divine sovereignty and human responsibility at play. In saying that he must bring them also he speaks of the love that goes in search of the lost, which is a theme running throughout this Gospel and indeed the New Testament. He must (dei) do this; it is a divine necessity (cf. Grundmann 1964:22-24) that comes from the very character of God as love.

But how will he bring the Gentiles? When Gentiles do come to him it signals his hour has finally arrived (12:20, 23), but Jesus himself is not seen going to the Gentiles. He will bring the Gentiles into the flock by the ministry of his disciples, whom he will send (20:21). Jesus will continue his own ministry through his people, which will be accomplished through the presence of the Spirit. They are the ones who will bring the Gentiles, but Jesus is saying it is he himself who is doing so. This is an example of the oneness between the shepherd and his flock.

Similarly, the one shepherd unites the flock (Morris 1986-1988:380). The oneness comes from sharing the life of the one God in his Son by his Spirit. This flock is thus a spiritual entity yet not in the sense of being nonhistorical or only invisible any more than the incarnate Son who is its shepherd is such. This community has identifiable marks as a recognizable entity within history. Several marks are referred to in the New Testament, but the main ones mentioned in this passage are the centrality of Christ, the confession of him as exemplified by the former blind man and the fact that this community is to be composed of both Jews and Gentiles. The centrality of Christ is especially strong, given his exclusivist claims. "The text does not suggest that this Good Shepherd will one day join a series of other shepherds who will then form a cooperative `shepherds' union'" (Bailey 1993:17). Thus, the oneness of the flock corresponds to the thought found throughout this Gospel that Jesus is the only way to the Father.

Jesus concludes this teaching by revealing more fully the mystery involved in the shepherd's laying down his life for the sheep (vv. 17-18). He says he lays down his life of my own accord (literally, "from myself," ap' emautou), which makes it clear that his life is not simply taken from him by his opponents. At no point in this Gospel are his actions determined by human agenda, and his death will be no different. It may look like the triumph of darkness over light, but it is not. Pilate may think he has the authority (19:10, exousia, "power" in the NIV), but Jesus tells him, "You would have no power [exousia] over me if it were not given to you from above" (19:11). This does not mean that the human agents of God's power, both Pilate and Caiaphas, are without sin (19:11) but rather that there is an antinomy between divine sovereignty and human responsibility.

Jesus' statement that he has the authority to lay down his life stretches the imagery of the shepherd. He next proceeds to transcend it altogether by saying he has the authority not only to lay down his life, but also to take it back again. This cryptic teaching will become clearer in the next chapter, when he speaks of resurrection. The theme of life has been central throughout John's Gospel, and soon it will be the focus of the climax of Jesus' public ministry in the raising of Lazarus (Jn 11). The abundant life that this shepherd has come to give (v. 10) is something far beyond anything ever before available. Those in the story cannot even begin to grasp what he is talking about.

Despite this talk about having authority and acting from himself, the hallmark of his life is dependence on the Father. So he concludes by grounding all that he has said in this truth (v. 18). In laying down his life and taking it back he is obeying his Father. He knows his Father's voice and obeys, just as we are to hear his voice and obey.

It is in this light that we must understand his statement that the reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life--only to take it up again (v. 17). This statement seems to imply that the Father's love is based on the Son's obedience, but it is clear that the Father's love for the Son is from all eternity (17:24; cf. 3:35; 5:20; 15:9; 17:23, 26). Furthermore, the Father loves the world, which is certainly not obedient (3:16), so the Father's love is not conditioned by obedience. Some commentators resolve this problem by looking at the character of the love between the Father and the Son and concluding that it is "eternally linked with and mutually dependent upon the Son's complete alignment with the Father's will and his obedience even unto death" (Barrett 1978:377; cf. Carson 1991:388). Others point to the effects of the obedience, either in terms of its revelation of the love between the Father and the Son (Bultmann 1971:384; Beasley-Murray 1987:171) or in terms of its accomplishment of the salvation of the world (Hoskyns 1940b:440; Beasley-Murray 1987:171). Rudolf Schnackenburg says the Father's love for the Son is mentioned here "to throw the Son's deed into relief" (Schnackenburg 1980b:301).

Each of these efforts touch on Johannine themes, but what does it mean that the reason the Father loves the Son is that he lays down his life? The Father simply is love (1 Jn 4:8), and as a part of his very character his love is not contingent on the loveliness of the objects of his love. But it is possible to fall out of "the sphere of His active love" (Hoskyns 1940b:440), which is the condition of the world upon whom God's wrath abides (3:36). His wrath is his settled opposition toward that which disrupts the harmony of relations between himself and his creatures and which corrupts and destroys those whom he loves. In the case of Christ, his sinless obedience maintains the harmony of relationship between himself and his Father--therefore God's love remains fulfilled toward him. Jesus refers to this when he says, "If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love" (15:10). Such obedience is the expression of love (14:15, 21) and is the condition for intimacy (14:23). Thus, in our passage Jesus would be saying that the Father is able to fulfill his love for the Son because the Son does the Father's will. In this way, as the commentators have suggested, we see both the character of God's love and the effects of the Son's love, which is shown in obedience.

19At these words the Jews were again divided. 20Many of them said, "He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?"
21But others said, "These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?"

The Unbelief of the Jews

22Then came the Feast of Dedication[2] at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon's Colonnade. 24The Jews gathered around him, saying, "How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ,[3] tell us plainly."
25Jesus answered, "I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father's name speak for me, 26but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all[4] ; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. 30I and the Father are one."
31Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, 32but Jesus said to them, "I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?"
33"We are not stoning you for any of these," replied the Jews, "but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God."
34Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your Law, 'I have said you are gods'[5] ? 35If he called them 'gods,' to whom the word of God came--and the Scripture cannot be broken-- 36what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, 'I am God's Son'? 37Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. 38But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father." 39Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp.
40Then Jesus went back across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing in the early days. Here he stayed 41and many people came to him. They said, "Though John never performed a miraculous sign, all that John said about this man was true." 42And in that place many believed in Jesus.

John 10:19-42


The Jewish Opponents Remain Divided over Jesus (10:19-21)

Jesus has addressed this profound teaching to "some Pharisees who were with him," who were surprised at the idea that they might be blind (9:40). These are the same folks who had been divided over Jesus due to his healing of the blind man (9:16), and they continue to be divided over him (10:19). For some, Jesus' teaching reinforces the idea that he is demon-possessed (v. 20; cf. 7:20; 8:48-52). To this they now add that he is raving mad, "since madness was thought to be the result of demonic possession (Brown 1966:387; cf. Mk 3:20-30; 5:1-20). Others counter the Pharisees' assertion, saying that a person who is demon-possessed does not speak like this and cannot open the eyes of the blind (v. 21). Thus, both Jesus' words and deeds combine to bear witness to him, but the revelation simply increases the division. The more light, the greater the polarization.

Jesus Claims to Be the Messiah and to Be One with God (10:22-42)

We now come to the climax of Jesus' public ministry. In a sense his ministry remains public until chapter 13, but this encounter is the last public teaching before the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, which is the beginning of his Passion. Here he speaks as clearly as possible about himself and his opponents. This exchange is his last effort to get them to understand who he is. Later, when they try to raise the issue again he simply calls upon them to respond to the light he has already given them (12:34-36).

This teaching occurs at the Feast of Dedication (v. 22), about two months after the Feast of Tabernacles. This feast commemorates the rededication of the temple in 164 B.C. (1 Macc 4:36-59; 2 Macc 10:1-8; Josephus Antiquities of the Jews 12.316-26). The Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes had forbidden Jews to continue to practice their religion and had tried to force them to worship Zeus. He had an altar set up in the temple in Jerusalem and sacrifice was offered on this altar on the 25th of Chislev, 167 B.C. This led to a revolt known as the Maccabean Revolt. It was initiated by a priest named Mattathias and then carried on under the leadership of his son Judas, known as Maccabeus, "the hammer" (1 Macc 1--3; 2 Macc 5--9; Josephus Antiquities of the Jews 12.248-315). The revolt was successful, and the temple was restored and rededicated, with proper sacrifice being offered once again, beginning on the 25th of Chislev, 164 B.C. An eight-day feast was held and has continued each year from that time, and it is known today as Hanukkah. A hallmark of the festival is the lighting of lamps and a sense of joy.

Jesus has withdrawn from the temple (8:59) and begun to gather around him a community distinct from official Judaism (chap. 9). He has interpreted his activity as the divine shepherd's gathering the flock of God (10:1-21) and has concluded with a reference to the authority God has given him to lay down his life and take it back again (10:18), echoing what he had said in his first public teaching to these Jewish leaders concerning his body, the temple (2:19-22). Now he returns to the vicinity of the temple, though not to the temple proper. Solomon's Colonnade (10:23) was an open, roofed 45-foot walkway with double columns that were 38 feet tall. It was situated along the east side of the Court of Gentiles (Westerholm 1988:772). Although it was part of the temple complex, it was not considered to be part of the actual temple (Brown 1966:402), as evidenced by the fact that Gentiles were not allowed into the temple but they could be present in Solomon's Colonnade. Thus, Jesus' departure from the temple at the end of chapter 8 was final. But now, right next to the temple, at a feast commemorating the rededication of the temple, Jesus gives his clearest teaching about his own identity. It is this identity that is the grounds for his replacement of the temple as the place where forgiveness of sins is available and God is to be met. "Christ in fact perfectly accomplished what the Maccabees wrought in a figure, and dedicated a new and abiding temple" (Westcott 1908:2:64). Jesus also clearly spells out the separation between himself and the Jewish leaders.

These leaders surround Jesus in the colonnade (v. 24), perhaps so he could not escape as he had before (8:59) or perhaps just out of intense earnestness. They keep asking him (elegon, an imperfect), How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly (v. 24). They are tired of the figures of speech (cf. 10:6). Jesus realizes he has not been speaking plainly (16:25) in that he hasn't said simply, "I am the Messiah." But he also can reply, I did tell you (v. 25), for if one puts his words and deeds together, the message is plain enough. The problem lies not in his lack of clarity, but in their lack of faith (v. 25), for they are not his sheep (v. 26). In this way Jesus continues to work with the imagery of sheep and shepherd, and now he applies it to his opponents. He is speaking more plainly, for earlier he had not actually said these opponents were not of his flock, though the thought was expressed rather clearly through the images he used.

After saying that these Jewish leaders are not his sheep Jesus describes something of the blessings of those who are his sheep. He repeats his earlier teaching that each of his sheep hear his voice, are known by him, follow him (v. 27; cf. vv. 3, 4, 14, 16) and have eternal life (v. 28; cf. vv. 9-10). He concludes with a dramatic emphasis on the security of his sheep: no one can snatch them out of my hand (v. 28). In the light of the danger to the sheep from thieves, robbers and wolves this comes as a great comfort. The security of the sheep rests on the shepherd. Jesus' reference to himself as the one able to protect his flock from all dangers is yet another aspect of the incredible claims he is making in this chapter. As always, however, he is not acting on his own apart from the Father: My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand (v. 29). Again we see the primacy of the Father, the one who these opponents think is their God. In threatening Jesus and his followers they are up against God himself.

In this passage of infinite comfort this Gospel touches once again upon the mysteries of divine sovereignty and human responsibility. We have both the call of God and the response of faith on the part of the sheep. B. F. Westcott captures the balance well when he says we must distinguish between

the certainty of God's promises and His infinite power on the one hand, and the weakness and variableness of man's will on the other. If man falls at any stage in his spiritual life, it is not from want of divine grace, nor from the overwhelming power of adversaries, but from his neglect to use that which he may or may not use. We cannot be protected against ourselves in spite of ourselves. He who ceases to hear and to follow is thereby shown to be no true believer, 1 John ii.19. . . . The sense of the divine protection is at any moment sufficient to inspire confidence, but not to render effort unnecessary. (Westcott 1908:2:67)

His sheep are safe in his hand (v. 28) and his Father's hand (v. 29). The implication of such a juxtaposition comes with Jesus' climactic claim, I and the Father are one (v. 30). What is this oneness? In the context Jesus is speaking of God's love, care and power and his own claim to share in these. Such a claim to oneness with God is not a claim to deity, since the same unity with God is true of Christians, who share in God's very life and are participants in his will, love, activity and power. Thus Jesus is one with the Father in the same way believers are. But even when this language is used of Christians it is made clear that their oneness with God is mediated to them by Christ (17:22-23). Jesus' own oneness with the Father includes these aspects, but it also is of a completely different order (cf. 8:58). The Father not only gave Jesus life, as he has done for believers, but has made him the giver of life (5:21), a divine attribute illustrated in what Jesus says about the bread (chap. 6) and the water (chap. 7) and which will be climactically demonstrated in the raising of Lazarus (chap. 11). So this figure of the hand is not just about sharing in God's power or exercising God's power; it is part of his claim to equality with God. It implies a oneness in essence since "infinite power is an essential attribute of God; and it is impossible to suppose that two beings distinct in essence could be equal in power" (Westcott 1908:2:68; cf. Chrysostom In John 61.2; Augustine In John 48.7). Here, then, is a powerful claim to deity. The opponents take it as such (v. 33), and Jesus does not deny that interpretation.

The word used here for one is the neuter form, hen, rather than the masculine, heis. If the masculine had been used, it could have suggested that the Son is the Father, thus losing the distinctness of each, a heresy known later as Monarchianism or Sabellianism (Tertullian Against Praxeas 25; Augustine In John 36.9). But the Gospel throughout has been true to the insight revealed in the first verse of its first chapter: the Word is God, yet it is "with God," distinct from God. This truth is also found in this verse in the plural form of the verb are. "He did not say, `I and the Father am one,' but are one" (Hippolytus Against Neotus 7; Augustine In John 36.9). So although this passage is not expressed in philosophical categories, it is clear, as the church has understood and given expression in the creeds, that "some kind of metaphysical unity is presupposed, even if not articulated" (Carson 1991:395; cf. Pollard 1957).

The opponents have asked Jesus about his identity as the Messiah, and in reply he has continued his claim to deity. If they had accepted Jesus' identity as somehow divine, as at least some sort of agent of God, then they would have been able to receive him as Messiah. Jesus does not claim to be Messiah in their understanding of that term, but all of his words and deeds have been those of the Messiah in truth. But the Jews were not expecting a messiah who shared in God's divinity, and thus these opponents could not see his messiahship and were scandalized by his claims to equality with God. So, as before, they picked up stones to stone him (v. 31; cf. 8:59). But this time instead of slipping away (8:59), he discusses his claim with them.

This is a most amazing scene. They are standing there with stones and are ready to kill him, and he calmly tries to help them see their error. Here is sovereign calmness that comes from being centered in God's will, the will of the Father who is greater than all. And by continuing to try to help them come to faith even as they are seeking to stone him Jesus manifests amazing grace. He is graciously calling them to reconsider, for they know not what they do. These men are seeking to kill the one who is offering them life--offering it to them even in the midst of their attack against him. The glory of God, which is his grace, continues to shine brightly at this point.

He appeals to them on the basis of their own experience and the Scriptures. He begins with the deeds he has done: I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me? (v. 32). These deeds (erga, "works") are from the Father, from the one they claim as their God. They are great (kalos), the same word used to described the shepherd as "good" (10:11, 14). His deeds are not just great, they are admirable. "It is impossible to find a single English word equivalent to the Greek, which suggests deeds of power and moral excellence, resulting in health and well-being" (Barrett 1978:383). These are deeds that should have provoked awe and admiration and praise, not anger and hostility. They are kalos precisely because they are from the Father. Nothing is truly kalos except that which proceeds from the Father, the source of all that is good and true and worthy.

The opponents have been divided over what to make of Jesus, but a sufficient number of them have decided his scandalous claims are clear enough, whatever might be the explanation of the miracles, to warrant putting his followers out of the synagogue and stone Jesus himself: We are not stoning you for any of these . . . but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God (v. 33). The understanding of blasphemy in later sources has to do with pronouncing the divine name, the Tetragrammaton (YHWH; m. Sanhedrin 7:5). In Jewish literature the only case of calling oneself God reflects fairly clearly the debates between church and synagogue over the claims of Jesus (y. Ta'anit 2; 65b; 59; Exodus Rabbah 29:5; cf. Barrett 1978:383-84). Presumably there would not need to be a law for such a thing--it is unthinkable that one would make such a claim. But if such a claim were made, it would not take a lot of deliberation to determine that this was blasphemy against the one God. The tradition may speak of the Torah and Wisdom as divine and even hypothesize them (see comment on 1:1-2), but it would be something quite different for a human being to claim such status.

Jesus defends his claim using language they should be able to understand, through an appeal to the law. He cites a text that uses the word god of those who are not God: Is it not written in your Law, "I have said you are gods"? (v. 34). It is unclear who is being referred to in Psalm 82:6. Of the several proposals made by scholars (cf. Beasley-Murray 1987:176-77), the most likely takes this as a reference either to Israel's judges or to the people of Israel as they receive the law. The latter is a common understanding among the rabbis (for example, b. 'Aboda Zara 5a; Exodus Rabbah 32:7), but the former is also represented in Jewish interpretation (Midrash Psalms; b. Sanhedrin 6b; 7a; b. Sota 47b). Jesus' explanation that these gods are those to whom the word of God came (v. 35) might point to the Israelites receiving the law. In this case the contrast between these gods and Jesus would be that Jesus is the one who both fulfills the law and is greater than the law. But this expression to whom the word of God came could also refer to the judges (as suggested by the rest of Ps 82) who have received a commission from God to exercise the divine prerogative of judgment on his behalf. The psalm is actually a condemnation of the judges for not exercising their responsibility faithfully, thus corresponding both to the condemnation of these Jewish leaders in John and to Jesus as the true judge.

To make his point Jesus uses an argument from the lesser to the greater, a very common form of argument in the ancient world, not least among the rabbis. He compares the people who are called gods to himself, the Son of God. They merely received the word of God, whereas he is the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world (v. 36). Here is a succinct summary of the central truth of his identity, which has been emphasized throughout this Gospel. He is using the language of an agent (see note on 5:21), but the implication is that he existed with the Father before coming into the world. Thus, he is putting himself in the category of the law that was given by God rather than in the category of one of the recipients of that law. By saying he was set apart ("consecrated," hagiazo) he is claiming a status similar to the temple, whose reconsecration these opponents are celebrating at this feast.

What he means by the title Son of God goes beyond anything they had thought before, but it is not a denial of the truths of Scripture. Indeed, the Scripture itself, as illustrated by Psalm 82:6, contains hints of such a revelation, and the Scripture cannot be broken (v. 35); the Scripture cannot be kept from fulfillment (Brown 1966:404). This parenthetical comment spoken by Jesus shows how important this line of argument is for Jesus and John. But, as with all other arguments, it only makes sense if the listener is open to entertaining the truth of who Jesus is.

So the Scriptures indicate that they should not be put off by his claims and therefore should be open to the evidence of the deeds he has done. Jesus presses this line of evidence: Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles (vv. 37-38; cf. 5:19-28). His deeds are like the deeds of God, both in power and in graciousness. Miracles alone are not enough to confirm the truth of one who speaks for God (see comment on 9:33). But the point of these signs is not simply that they are powerful or awesome or supernatural but that they are in keeping with God's own character--they manifest his gracious love.

His conclusion again transcends the category of agent: that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father (v. 38). They are standing there with rocks in their hands (though perhaps not, since the rocks used for stoning were large; cf. m. Sanhedrin 6:4), and he is appealing to them to accept the evidence of their senses, as witnessed to by the Scriptures, that he is uniquely related to God. Again we see the antinomy between divine sovereignty and human responsibility. These are the folk Jesus said could not believe because they were not of his sheep (v. 26), but here he is appealing to them to believe. The Gospel is to be shared with everyone, even persecutors, for who knows--one may turn out to be a Saul (Acts 9:1-19).

But the appeal is in vain at this point: Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp (v. 39). They had not grasped his message so they tried to grasp him to kill him. "They failed to apprehend Him, because they lacked the hand of faith" (Augustine In John 48.11). The Father who is greater than all will protect those who believe in Jesus (v. 29), so how much more will he protect Jesus himself.

Jesus leaves Jerusalem and goes back across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing in the early days (v. 40; cf. 1:28). John's witness was reported extensively in chapter 1 and then referred to a couple of times 3:23-30; 5:33-36). This reference ties together the first ten chapters and therefore signals the conclusion of a major section of the Gospel. Jesus' next great deed, the raising of Lazarus, reveals the heart of what his whole ministry has been about, but it takes place in a semiprivate setting. Thus the public ministry of Jesus now concludes--"the narrative of the Lord's ministry closes on the spot where it began" (Westcott 1908:2:73).

The opponents in Jerusalem have rejected him, but now, across the Jordan, many come to him and believe in him (vv. 41-42). They have received John's witness concerning Jesus: Though John never performed a miraculous sign, all that John said about this man was true (v. 41). No miracles are associated with John in the New Testament, Josephus (Antiquities of the Jews 18.116-19) or any other source (Bammel 1965:183-88). This is striking because "the praise of a man of God who did not perform miracles was completely unknown in Jewish sources" (Bammel 1965:191). This makes John's witness to Jesus stand out even more as the great accomplishment of his ministry. From a Christian point of view, such witness is a great work for it enables people to do the work of God, to believe in the one sent from God (6:29).

The people say that all that John said about this man was true (v. 41). The focus here is not so much on Jesus' deeds, since not all that John said had yet been accomplished, for example, taking away the sins of the world or baptizing with the Holy Spirit (1:29, 33; cf. Brown 1966:411). Rather, the focus is on Jesus' identity as the one who was to come (1:26-27, 30-31), as summarized in John's testimony: "I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God" (1:34). Now, in the light of all Jesus has said and done, the truth of this testimony has been made evident to those who are able to see.

The Death of Lazarus

1Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair. 3So the sisters sent word to Jesus, "Lord, the one you love is sick."
4When he heard this, Jesus said, "This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it." 5Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.
7Then he said to his disciples, "Let us go back to Judea."
8"But Rabbi," they said, "a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?"
9Jesus answered, "Are there not twelve hours of daylight? A man who walks by day will not stumble, for he sees by this world's light. 10It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light."
11After he had said this, he went on to tell them, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up."
12His disciples replied, "Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better." 13Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.
14So then he told them plainly, "Lazarus is dead, 15and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him."
16Then Thomas (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with him."

John 11:1-16


Jesus Raises Lazarus (11:1-54)

In this transitional story there are many connections with earlier chapters. The motif of light found in chapters 8 and 9 continues (11:9-10), the purpose given for the illness of the blind man is similar to that given for Lazarus' death (9:3; 11:4), and the healing of the blind man is referred to (11:37), as is the conflict with the Jewish authorities in chapter 10 (11:8). We have another example of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, calling his own and gathering his flock (11:54). There are also larger connections, for the raising of Lazarus is the last of a series of Jesus' signs that began in chapter 2; both the first and last of the signs in this series (2:11; 11:4) are explicitly linked with the revelation of God's glory. All of the signs were revelations of who Jesus is and what he offers. The final sign, the raising of Lazarus, points most clearly to what has been at the heart of the revelation all the way through and what was emphasized in Jesus' keynote address (5:19-30)--that Jesus is the one who gives life. The irony, of course, is that he gives life by giving up his own life on the cross. A further irony is that by giving life to Lazarus, Jesus sets in motion his own death. The raising of Lazarus, then, is the final sign before the event that actually accomplishes what all the signs have pointed toward--the provision of life through the death of the Son of God.

This story also continues to develop the theme of faith. Jesus has just made a very clear statement of his unity with the Father (10:30, 38), and many have believed in him (10:42). Often in this Gospel Jesus reacts to faith by doing or saying something scandalous or cryptic. Although these folk who have faith are not present at the raising of Lazarus, the raising can perhaps be seen as a further revelation in response to their faith, as they represent a general turn upward in his popularity.

Lazarus Dies (11:1-16)

John does not say exactly when this event took place, only that it was sometime during the four months, roughly, between the Feast of Dedication and Passover. John is, however, careful to describe the place. This Bethany is a little less than two miles southeast of Jerusalem on the road to Jericho (cf. v. 18). It is to be distinguished from the Bethany where John had been baptizing (1:28) and to which Jesus had just returned (10:40), which is either in Perea at the Jordan a few miles north of the Dead Sea, about a day's journey from Jerusalem, or up north in Batanea, several days journey away (Riesner 1992; cf. Carson 1991:147, 407).

The sisters send a message to Jesus: Lord, the one you love is sick (v. 3). Clearly, Jesus had a special relationship with this man and his sisters (v. 5). Yet chapters 11 and 12 are the only reference to Lazarus in the New Testament. We are alerted, once again, to how little we know of the life of our Lord (cf. 21:25).

This request is very similar to Jesus' mother's request at the wedding of Cana (2:4). It presents a need but does not dictate to the Lord how he should respond. In these requests we have a model of intercession that makes a need known to the Lord with humility and a recognition that it is his will that should be done. Such humility and submission are key characteristics of true disciples.

Jesus had responded to his mother by saying it was not yet his hour, a reference to the cross (2:4). Now, however, his hour is fast approaching. Mary and Martha must have known how dangerous it had become for Jesus to be in the vicinity of Jerusalem. They might have known that Jesus could heal at a distance (cf. 4:49-53), yet they seem to want him to come to heal Lazarus (11:21, 32). Perhaps their anxiety for their brother led them to summon Jesus. But love is the laying down of life (cf. 1 Jn 3:16), and the sisters seem to think that Jesus would be willing to risk his life for the sake of their brother, whom he loves. Whatever they may have been thinking, we see that Jesus, the Good Shepherd, was indeed willing to risk his life for his friend (cf. 10:11, 15), though he was under no real danger since he was doing the Father's will and under his protection (10:39; cf. 10:29).

Jesus' love for Lazarus and his sisters teaches us that our faith in God's love, even in the midst of adversity, is well grounded. Even those especially dear to God must endure such things (cf. Chrysostom In John 62.1). "The one sick, the others sad, all of them beloved: but He who loved them was both the Savior of the sick, nay more, the Raiser of the dead and the Comforter of the sad" (Augustine In John 49.7).

When Jesus heard the message he said, This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it (v. 4). This response sets the agenda and provides the approach to what will take place. Just as the man's blindness in chapter 9 was an opportunity for the work of God to be manifested (9:3), so the purpose here is the glorification of God and his Son through this sickness. In both cases we see a revelation of the divine activities of life-giving and judgment, though here they are more intense for we are close to the cross and resurrection, the ultimate glorification (12:23; 13:31).

In all that Jesus does we see the glory of God (1:14), for we see God's love and life-giving power. Now, in the raising of Lazarus, we will have the most spectacular manifestation of this glory. God is the one who brings life to the dead out of his love for those in such need. This is the heart of the Gospel. God's glory is thus seen in his victory over death--indeed, it is "possible only through death--first the death of Lazarus, and then the death of Jesus himself!" (Michaels 1989:195).

The close connection between Jesus and the Father clearly presented in chapter 5 and chapters 8--10 is evident here as well. This is one of the few times Jesus refers to himself explicitly as God's Son (cf. 5:25; 10:36, perhaps 3:18). The Son of God will be glorified through this illness and thereby the glory of God himself will be manifested. The Father will be glorified as the source of life, and the Son will be glorified as the one who acts in obedience to the Father and shares in his identity as the source of life (cf. 1:3-4, 10; 5:21, 26; cf. Michaels 1989:195).

When Jesus' mother appealed for help in Cana he put her off with a statement that seemed abrupt or even harsh (2:4). Now, when the most powerful sign is about to be performed, Jesus behaves in an especially shocking manner. John prepares us for this by emphasizing Jesus' love for Lazarus and his sisters (v. 5). Jesus loved them and "therefore" (oun, translated in the NIV as yet) when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days (v. 6). Jesus acts only in accordance with his Father's will (2:4; 7:3-9), not the will of his family or, as we see now, his closest friends. His activity is scandalous, as Mary and Martha will show by their responses (11:21, 32), because he is concerned with God's glory (v. 4), with doing God's will and, as "therefore" indicates, with love for these friends. His love does not feel like love but it is love, and it is for the best in their lives. His delay leads to a greater blessing.There are two possible ways to understand the sequence of events that follow, depending on whether one believes the Bethany where Jesus is staying is in the south or the north. If Bethany is in the south, as most scholars believe, then it would take the messengers one day to reach Jesus and one day for Jesus to reach Lazarus. Since Jesus stayed put for two days and Lazarus has been dead for four days when Jesus does arrive, that means Lazarus must have died on the same day as the messengers set out (cf. Barrett 1978:391). If Bethany is a reference to Batanea in the north the timing would be different. It takes four days to travel from Batanea to where Lazarus is. Since Jesus arrives when Lazarus has been dead for four days, Jesus had waited until Lazarus died before he set out. In either case the two-day delay does not cause the death of Lazarus, since Jesus could not have gotten to him before he died, either because he was dead before the messengers arrived with their message (southern view) or because Jesus would only be halfway there (northern view). In either case the two-day delay does, however, insure that Lazarus will have been dead for four days when Jesus arrives.

When Jesus announces that they are to return to Judea (v. 7), his disciples remind him that the Jewish opponents had just been trying to stone him there (v. 8). The disciples are taking their cues from their circumstances rather than from the Father. They are very aware of the danger their opponents present, but they are not in tune with the voice of the Father. Jesus responds with a cryptic saying, which, as usual, directly addresses the issue at hand but is not able to be understood (vv. 9-10). He uses the imagery of light to put things into perspective for them. In the natural realm one is able to walk without stumbling while there is light, and there is light for a set period of time. One need not worry about stumbling while it is day. The point is that they need not worry about what will happen to them for they have the Light of the World with them (8:12), for with him they are able to get on with the work of the Father (9:4). With the psalmist they can say, "The Lord is my light and my salvation--whom shall I fear?" (Ps 27:1). They should stick with Jesus even when he seems to lead them into danger, for no matter what happens it will work out for the best, even as Lazarus's illness will work for the glory of God. Here is a word of assurance and a call to all believers to take their bearings from God and not from their circumstances.

From this cryptic saying, which goes over their heads, as Thomas' response will soon indicate (v. 16), Jesus spells out why they must now return to Judea: Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up (v. 11; cf. Mt 9:24). The use of the metaphor of sleep to refer to death is common in the ancient world, including ancient Jewish thought (Balz 1972:548-53), but the disciples nevertheless misunderstand and think Jesus is referring to natural sleep (v. 13). This misunderstanding is quite amazing. Who could think that Jesus was concerned about Lazarus's merely falling asleep? And even if this were an acceptable concern--perhaps they think Jesus means Lazarus is now sleeping peacefully after his illness--who could think Jesus would need to be informed that Lazarus would wake up, especially since it would take Jesus up to four days to get to Lazarus, depending on where one thinks Jesus was when he received the news about Lazarus? So it appears the disciples are thinking that Jesus had preternatural knowledge that Lazarus had fallen asleep and that he wanted to go wake him up! There must have been no dull moments with Jesus. He was doing incredible miracles, he was a marked man in the eyes of the authorities, and one never knew what he would say next. The disciples are very disoriented, which should be of some encouragement to us when we feel the same way. Jesus' patience with them is a manifestation of God's grace for which we can only be thankful. "Christ's kindness in putting up with such stupidity in the disciples was remarkable" (Calvin 1959:5).

Jesus has spoken of death as a sleep from which he will awaken the sleeper. Such language has profound implications concerning our Lord's power over death and the continuity of the person in death. Even in death Lazarus is still our friend (v. 11; cf. Westcott 1908:2:84), and he is able to be restored even after his body has begun to decay, which happens by the fourth day. He may have died (v. 14), but they are still going to him (v. 15), that is, "He speaks of the body `sleeping' in the tomb as the man himself" (Westcott 1908:2:86).

It is no wonder, then, that sleep becomes the main way of referring to death in Christian thought beginning with the postapostolic fathers (cf. Balz 1972:555-56). Indeed, our word cemetery comes from the Greek word koimeterion, a place of sleep. Chrysostom says that since Christ died for the life of the world, we no longer call death thanatos (death) but hyptos kai koimesis (two words for sleep) (Chrysostom On the Cemetery and the Cross 1; cf. Balz 1972:556). As he says elsewhere, "What is death at most? It is a journey for a season; a sleep longer than usual! So that if you fear death, you should also fear sleep!" (Chrysostom Concerning the Statues 5.11; cf. 7.1).

Since the disciples do not understand that Jesus is speaking of Lazarus' death, he has to explain it to them (v. 14) and thereby give them his perspective on this opportunity: for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe (v. 15). He has no doubt that he could have cured Lazarus if he had been there, but something even more helpful for their faith is now going to take place. "It is sometimes expedient for disciples that Jesus should be absent from them; cf. 16.7" (Barrett 1978:393). To have faith in the Son of God is far more important than to have health and comfort in this life. Such faith leads to eternal life (20:31), as this miracle will symbolize. This faith is a progressive thing, for here Jesus is talking to those who have believed in him already, and yet he says this miracle is so that you may believe. Faith must be exercised in the face of each new revelation, and each new revelation is taking the disciples nearer to the ultimate revelation in the most extremely scandalous event, the cross--the ultimate revelation of God's light and life and love and thus the ultimate manifestation of God that faith must grasp hold of. As God reveals more of himself and his ways to us we must likewise have a faith that both grasps firmly onto him as he is revealed in Jesus and also is able to be stretched and deepened. Faith enables us to rest in God, but God himself also keeps us on the move as we continue to grow closer to him for ever.

Jesus may be rejoicing, but Thomas, and presumably the other disciples, is not. We usually think of Thomas as "doubting Thomas" from his reactions after the resurrection of the Lord (20:24-28). In the present story we see another facet of Thomas--his loyalty. This is the response of a true disciple. Just as Peter sticks with Jesus even though he does not understand what Jesus is talking about regarding eating his flesh and drinking his blood (6:68), so Thomas is willing to go with Jesus to death (v. 16). He is still fixated with the evident danger (v. 8), and he does not understand the encouraging words Jesus has just spoken (vv. 9-10), but he is attached to Jesus and is going to stay with him, even though he does not see how Jesus' decision makes any sense. Here is an incredible picture of faith. He is not following because he sees how it all fits; he is following out of loyalty to Jesus himself. He is a model disciple at this point. As Thomas follows Jesus into what he thinks is death he is answering the call, expressed in the Synoptics, that "if anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it" (Mk 8:34-35).

Jesus Comforts the Sisters

17On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18Bethany was less than two miles[1] from Jerusalem, 19and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. 20When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.
21"Lord," Martha said to Jesus, "if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask."
23Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again."
24Martha answered, "I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day."
25Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"
27"Yes, Lord," she told him, "I believe that you are the Christ,[2] the Son of God, who was to come into the world."

John 11:17-27


Jesus Reveals Himself to Martha as the Resurrection and the Life (11:17-27)

The scene now shifts to Bethany, near Jerusalem, as Jesus arrives and finds that Lazarus has been in the tomb for four days. Burials normally took place on the day of the death (cf. Acts 5:6-10), so he has been dead for four days. For Jews this probably signifies that Lazarus is clearly dead and beginning to decay (cf. m. Yebamot 16:3). A later Jewish text that cites an authority from the early third century A.D. says the mourners should continue to come to the tomb for three days because the dead person continues to be present. Mourning is at its height on the third day, presumably because it is the last time the dead person will be present there. "Bar Kappara taught: Until three days [after death] the soul keeps on returning to the grave, thinking that it will go back [into the body]; but when it sees that the facial features have become disfigured, it departs and abandons it [the body]" (Genesis Rabbah 100:7; cf. Leviticus Rabbah 18:1; Ecclesiastes Rabbah 12:6). Thus, the reference to the fourth day may be quite significant for setting the scene for another dramatic miracle. The healings in this Gospel have taken place in response to desperate needs (cf. Talbert 1992:172) from the son of the royal official who was close to death (4:49), to the man who was paralyzed for thirty-eight years (5:5), to the man born blind (9:1). Now we come to the climax of this sequence.

John spells out that Bethany is quite near Jerusalem (v. 18). This note heightens the drama. Jesus had said he was returning to Judea (v. 7), which the disciples recognized as the place of hostility. Now John makes sure we understand that Jesus has come back to the region of Jerusalem itself, the very heart of the opposition. Jerusalem is also the key place for revelation, and the greatest of all revelations is now starting to unfold.

As Jesus approaches, Martha comes out to meet him. It is unclear why Jesus halted and met her in this way. Some have suggested the desire for relative privacy, but perhaps more likely this reflects the danger he is in by returning to the suburbs of Jerusalem. The crowd of mourners may well contain those who would inform the authorities of Jesus' presence, as indeed does happen after the raising of Lazarus (v. 46).

Martha says, Lord, . . . if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask (v. 21). It is difficult to know how to understand this statement. It is possible to find in her first sentence a rebuke of Jesus (Wallace 1996:703) and in her second sentence a very defective view of Jesus: "She regards Jesus as an intermediary who is heard by God (22), but she does not understand that he is life itself (25)" (Brown 1966:433; cf. Chrysostom In John 62.3). The fact that she says, literally, "I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you" suggests a distance between Jesus and God through the repetition of the word God (not evident in the NIV). Also, the word she uses for ask (aiteo) is not the word used by Jesus for his own prayer to the Father but the word he uses of the disciples' prayer (Westcott 1908:2:89). Thus, there is no doubt that her view of Jesus is defective. Indeed, in this very interchange Jesus is revealing himself more perfectly to her, as he revealed himself to the Samaritan woman, despite her defective views.

But we should also see here a genuine, though defective, faith. Her initial statement (v. 21) need not imply a rebuke. It could simply be a lament (see, for example, Beasley-Murray 1987:190). And although her knowledge of Jesus is defective, nevertheless, she does believe Jesus could have healed Lazarus. And her belief that Jesus' prayers are answered does pick up on the truth of Jesus' dependence upon the Father, as will be illustrated later in this story (vv. 41-42). So there is more here than simple unbelief or defective belief.

Indeed, her statement in verse 22 is actually a profound statement of faith: But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask. It might be that she believed Jesus even now could ask God to raise Lazarus, but her reaction when he actually does raise Lazarus indicates that is not part of her thinking (v. 39). Rather, the greatness of her faith is seen in the words even now (kai nyn). She continues to believe in him even though Lazarus' death seems to call into question the messengers' report that Jesus had said, This sickness will not end in death (v. 4). Moreover, even though Jesus has delayed coming to help, she continues to believe that Jesus is the agent of the gracious God--despite the fact that this graciousness was not present to heal her brother. Her trust in God's love for one that Christ clearly loved (v. 3) is not shaken by what seems like indifference or disregard (cf. Job 13:15; Hab 3:16-19). In this way Martha is an example of stellar faith, which should encourage all believers who face situations in which God seems to be absent or uncaring. The hard parts of life are occasions for learning about God and drawing closer to him.

Jesus' response, Your brother will rise again (v. 23), comes across as a common consolation among those Jews who believed in the future resurrection. That is how Martha takes it (v. 24), which is another case of misunderstanding. Not that her belief in the future resurrection is wrong--indeed, it is confirmed by what takes place. But Jesus is speaking of something more profound, the very foundation upon which the future resurrection itself rests. As almost always in John's Gospel, the key to unlocking Jesus' cryptic sayings is Jesus' own identity.

Martha has expressed her faith in the future resurrection and her brother's place in it (v. 24). Jesus responds to this statement of faith by challenging her with a deeper revelation of himself: I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die (vv. 25-26). All of the "I am" sayings have to do with Christ as the life-giver, as is clearly the case here where we see that he does not just give life, but is life itself. As is made evident in some of the other "I am" sayings, he gives life by becoming our life (for example, 6:51; 15:1).

The main point is that Jesus' own identity spans the gap between the already and the not yet: "The resurrection because the life" (Augustine In John 49.14). Life is the more basic term, and the life Jesus is talking about even encompasses the resurrection life of the world to come (cf. Howard 1943:106-28; Beasley-Murray 1991:1-14). This "already" and "not yet" was met earlier (6:54; cf. 5:24-29). So we have in the raising of Lazarus a revelation of Jesus' authority and his identity as life-giver because he is life itself. Jesus' role goes far beyond our earthly existence.

The two terms Jesus uses, resurrection and life, are unpacked in the statements that follow (Dodd 1953:365). "I am the resurrection": He who believes in me will live, even though he dies (v. 25). This statement addresses Martha directly in the situation she is experiencing with the death of her brother. Jesus' claim is mind-boggling. He says it is faith in him that brings one back to life at the resurrection at the last day. He is the ground of eschatological hope. But then he goes even further. "I am the life": and whoever lives and believes in me will never die (v. 26). The life that comes through believing in Jesus is not interrupted by physical death. "The topic is the nature of the life that the believer has, namely one that death cannot destroy since the believer is in union with him who is the Life" (Beasley-Murray 1987:191). "By taking humanity into Himself He has revealed the permanence of man's individuality and being. But this permanence can be found only in union with Him. Thus two main thoughts are laid down: Life (resurrection) is present, and this Life is in a Person" (Westcott 1908:2:90).

Martha has confessed her faith in the resurrection (v. 24), and now Jesus has revealed himself to be the source of resurrection and life itself. He asks her, Do you believe this? (v. 26). She, like the former blind man (9:35-38), is given the opportunity to make a confession of faith. She does so in a statement that "echoes earlier confessions in the Gospel (1:42, 49) and anticipates the statement of its purpose in 20:30-31" (Beasley-Murray 1987:192). She responds, Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world (v. 27). She does not repeat the terms Jesus has used, but she combines two of the most common titles used for Jesus in this Gospel. It would seem that she does not really grasp what Jesus is saying, as will be clear from her response when he does raise Lazarus (v. 39). So her use of more common titles may be a sign that she has not understood him. But her faith is still genuine and solid, for it is in Jesus himself. She is not grasping all that he is saying about himself, but she is sticking with him and confessing as much as she knows, which is what faith is all about. As the events of the raising of Lazarus unfold Jesus will instruct her in what he has just claimed, thus bringing her step by step in her knowledge of who he is and what he is offering so she may respond in faith. "The relevance of faith lies not in the power of faith as such, but in the fact that faith creates communion with Jesus and that through Jesus believers receive the gift of life" (Schnackenburg 1980b:332). This example of patient progress in our Lord's dealing with Martha should be a great encouragement to those of us who are not always quick on the uptake when it comes to God's revelation of himself to us.

While Martha's use of terms may suggest her lack of comprehension, the effect her statement has in the unfolding revelation in this Gospel is more positive. Jesus' language of resurrection and life is combined with a common Jewish term, Christ, and John's favorite title for Jesus, Son (of God). This combination brings together several strands of thought and makes them interpret one another. The most fundamental category in John is life. At this point, when Jesus most clearly speaks of himself as life, other major terms are brought in, thus suggesting that they should be interpreted in the light of this theme of life as well. Thus, Martha's confession and Jesus' claim provide a major point of revelation in this Gospel.

28And after she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. "The Teacher is here," she said, "and is asking for you." 29When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. 30Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.
32When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died."

John 11:28-32


Jesus Meets with Mary (11:28-32)

After Martha made her confession of faith Jesus apparently sent her to call her sister Mary, since she tells Mary, The Teacher is here . . . and is asking for you (v. 28; more literally, "he is calling you," phonei se). The designation of Jesus as teacher is interesting after the more exalted terms of Martha's confession. But it is appropriate since he had just given her a teaching.

Mary runs to Jesus (v. 29), as had Martha (v. 20), showing that they had a great attachment to Jesus, which reciprocated his love for them. In coming to Jesus in the midst of suffering the sisters provide a model for all believers.

John tells us that Martha gives her message secretly (v. 28) and that Mary and Jesus meet apart from the crowd (v. 30) so it would seem Jesus desires privacy, perhaps, as noted above, because he is a marked man in this region. But his cover is blown when those who were mourning with Mary follow her, thinking she was going to wail at the tomb (v. 31). So all the mourners in the house gather at the tomb, providing witnesses to what is about to happen and thus giving them the opportunity to believe--and others as well through their testimony.

When Mary reaches Jesus, she falls at his feet and said, "Lord if you had been here, my brother would not have died" (v. 32). This is exactly what her sister had said (v. 21). It would seem the sisters had been sharing this thought with one another (Westcott 1908:2:94). Whether her statement is rebuke or lamentation is unclear, as it is in the case of Martha. It could have elements of both, though the fact that she is wailing (v. 33) suggests lamentation is her main response. Mary does not add an expression of faith as Martha had (v. 22), though falling at Jesus' feet may suggest a similar attitude.

33When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34"Where have you laid him?" he asked.
"Come and see, Lord," they replied.
35Jesus wept.
36Then the Jews said, "See how he loved him!"
37But some of them said, "Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?"

Jesus Raises Lazarus From the Dead

38Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39"Take away the stone," he said.
"But, Lord," said Martha, the sister of the dead man, "by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days."
40Then Jesus said, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?"
41So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me."
43When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" 44The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
Jesus said to them, "Take off the grave clothes and let him go."

John 11:33-44


Jesus Calls Lazarus Back from the Dead (11:33-44)

The wailing of Mary and those with her provokes a strong emotional reaction in Jesus. The NIV translation, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled (v. 33), is common among English translations, but it does not do justice to the language. The word for deeply moved (embrimaomai) can be used of snorting in animals (for example, Aeschylus Seven Against Thebes 461) and in humans refers to anger (Beasley-Murray 1987:192-93). The second word, troubled (tarasso), is literally "troubled himself" (etaraxen heauton). So a better translation would be, "became angry in spirit and very agitated" (Beasley-Murray 1987:192-93).

Clearly the wailing provokes his response, but there are two very different ways to understand the nature of this reaction. Some would see Jesus as upset over their obtuseness and lack of faith, which is evident in their wailing (Schnackenburg 1980b:336; Beasley-Murray 1987:193). In this case we would have an occasion similar to his upbraiding of the disciples for their little faith at the stilling of the storm in the Synoptics. As Matthew tells that story, Jesus upbraids them before he stills the storm, while they are still being tossed about (Mt 8:26; contrast Mk 4:39-40; Lk 8:24-25)! There is not, however, a clear note of anger in those stories such as we find here (though see Mt 17:17 par. Mk 9:19 par. Lk 9:41).

Others suggest Jesus is angry at death itself and the pain and sadness it causes evident in the wailing (Westcott 1908:2:96; Brown 1966:435; Michaels 1989:203). This could be a parallel with the emotion Jesus felt in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mk 14:33), "prompted by the imminence of death and the struggle with Satan" (Brown 1966:435; cf. Chrysostom In John 63.2), though there it is more like sadness.

Either interpretation gets at a truth. Since the focus of this chapter is the theme of life, death is the more likely object of his anger. In a Gospel in which life is one of the primary themes, death is clearly the great enemy. Also, anger at their lack of faith would not be appropriate since they have not been faithless, though theirs is an imperfect faith. And he has no reason to expect the Jews present to trust in him, especially since they did not hear his revelation to Martha. Thus, his anger is most likely not at their imperfect faith, but at death itself and the reign of terror it exercises.

Jesus asks where they have laid Lazarus, and they reply, come and see, Lord (v. 34). Their wailing had triggered anger; now their invitation triggers weeping (v. 35). Jesus has not yet come to the tomb (v. 38), so he is not weeping over Lazarus. There would be no reason to do so anyway, at least on his part. It is their invitation that wrings his heart. He does not wail (klaio) like them. Rather, he weeps (dakryo), that is, sheds tears. He is not in anguish over the death of Lazarus, but rather saddened by the pain and sadness they feel. He is weeping with those who weep (Rom 12:15) because he loves them. The grief caused by death is one facet of death's evil that caused his anger. He is angry at death and saddened at grief. In both cases the reason is the same, namely, his love for his friends. The love of God for us and his wrath toward that which corrupts and destroys us are two sides of a single coin.

Though Jesus' weeping was not over the death of Lazarus itself, his weeping--not wailing--has rightly been taken as a model of Christian mourning. Paul says we should not "grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope" (1 Thess 4:13). "He wept over Lazarus. So should you; weep, but gently, but with decency, but with the fear of God. If you weep thus, you do so not as disbelieving the resurrection, but as not enduring the separation. Since even over those who are leaving us, and departing to foreign lands, we weep, yet we do this not as despairing" (Chrysostom In John 62.4). But for believers, the separation is only for a while. Jesus' raising of Lazarus shows that his death was not final and that Jesus has the power over death. We may miss the one who has died and thus be saddened, but perfect love casts out wailing.

The Jewish mourners take note of how much Jesus loved Lazarus. They have interpreted his tears correctly. But then some of them go on to say, Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying? (v. 37). This is often taken as a statement of unbelief, which then provokes Jesus' anger again (v. 38; for example, Schnackenburg 1980b:337). But something much more profound is going on. This link back to the healing of the blind man is relevant, for that miracle was unheard of and actually bore witness to Jesus as the agent of creation (see comment on 9:6). If one has such powers, then it is reasonable to ask whether he could have prevented this death. This is not so much unbelief as it is puzzlement. It looks like death is stronger than Jesus despite the implications of his healing the man born blind.

So Jesus' anger in verse 38 is not at their lack of faith as such, but again at death and its challenge to him as life-giver. Jesus came to the tomb in this state of anger (embrimomenos, present participle; see comment on 11:33), ready to exercise his power over death and thereby initiating the process that will lead to his own death and decisive victory over death. "Christ does not come to the sepulchre as an idle spectator, but like a wrestler preparing for the contest. Therefore no wonder that He groans again, for the violent tyranny of death which He had to overcome stands before His eyes" (Calvin 1959:13).

Jesus orders the mourners to take the stone away from the entrance of the tomb (v. 39). Martha's objection that there would be a stench due to decomposition highlights the greatness of this sign. Jesus is raising someone who should already have begun to decay. There is no indication in the story that Lazarus comes out bearing marks of decay. Here we should see, as we saw with the giving of sight to the blind man, a revelation of Jesus' power and authority as the agent of creation. He does not just bring the person back to life by reuniting soul and body, he also restores the body itself. Thus, not only is the raising of Lazarus a sign of Jesus' identity and authority as life-giver, it also reflects the reality of the resurrection of the body. God is able to restore physical bodies after decay. The analogy is not complete, since Lazarus is not raised as an imperishable, spiritual body, as will be the case at the resurrection of the dead (1 Cor 15:42-44). But there is a continuity between the spiritual body and the physical body: it is a bodily resurrection. The overcoming of corruption in the raising of Lazarus thus provides, in part, a sign of the future resurrection.

The messengers had reported that Jesus said this illness is for God's glory (v. 4), and when Jesus met with Martha he presented himself to her as the object of faith. Now Jesus refers back to that conversation, though not in exactly the same words, at least as reported by John (cf. also 6:36, Schnackenburg 1980b:338). Jesus does not say that his ability to raise Lazarus is dependent on her faith. Rather, seeing God's glory depends upon her faith. Since she does indeed benefit from this sign it seems that her faith, defective as it may be, is nevertheless sufficient at this stage in God's eyes for her to see his glory. The repetition of the theme of God's glory at this point, just before the raising, keeps our focus on what is most significant. Here is the most powerful sign of Jesus' power and authority, but it does not point to him except as evidence that he is doing what he sees the Father doing. He is here to glorify God, not himself.

This dependency upon the Father is further emphasized in Jesus' prayer. Indeed, prayer itself is the form of speech that directly corresponds to the most significant thing about Jesus--his relationship with God, his Father. Each part of this prayer reveals something about that relationship. He looked up, or, more literally, he "lifted up his eyes" (v. 41; cf. Ps 123:1; Lam 3:41; 1 Esdras 4:58; 4 Maccabees 6:26; Mt 14:19 par. Mk 6:41 par. Lk 9:16; Jn 17:1), a gesture of looking away from self and toward God. It implies otherness and transcendence. But this gesture of transcendence is immediately juxtaposed with a word of intimacy, Father, the main title for God in this Gospel. Indeed, for Christians, God is now known primarily as the Father of Jesus. Our language for God as Father has its source in Jesus' own revelation of God. It is his relationship with God that a Christian enters into and thus comes to know God as Jesus knows him, within the limitations of human nature.

We do not hear an actual petition but rather Jesus' thanksgiving that the Father heard him (v. 41). The communication between the Father and the Son regarding Lazarus had taken place much earlier, since he already announced what would take place when the messengers arrived with the news (v. 4). We here see the Son as subordinate to the Father, bringing a request to the Father. But far more is involved, for he goes on to say, I knew that you always hear me (v. 42). The clear teaching of the Old Testament is that God listens to the righteous, not the unrighteous, except for prayers of repentance (see note on 9:31). Thus, Jesus is claiming to be righteous before God and in unbroken fellowship with him. He knows he is heard; he has utter confidence in this relationship. "Jesus lives in constant prayer and communication with his Father. When he engages in vocal prayer, he is not entering, as we do, from a state of non-praying into prayer. He is only giving overt expression to what is the ground and base of his life all along. He emerges from non-vocal to vocal prayer here in order to show that the power he needs . . . for the raising of Lazarus . . . depends on the gift of God. It is through that prayer and communion and constant obedience to his Father's will that he is the channel of the Father's saving action. That is why the prayer is a thanksgiving rather than a petition" (Fuller 1963:107).

He vocalizes his prayer for the sake of the crowd: I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me (v. 42). In other words, it is not enough for people to be impressed with Jesus. They must believe in him as the one sent from God. It is precisely because Jesus is sent from God and does as God directs him that he is heard by God. The Father as the sender is primary. Jesus is not a wonderworker who is able to get God to do what he wants him to do. He is the obedient Son sent by the Father to do the Father's will. The Father's will and the Son's petition coincide exactly. Later Jesus will say that his followers are to share in this same relationship through their union with him, and thereby they will also be heard by the Father (14:11-14; 15:7, 16; 16:24). In such prayer, as also in the case of Jesus' prayer, "It is not the setting up of the will of self, but the apprehension and taking to self of the divine will, which corresponds with the highest good of the individual" (Westcott 1908:2:101).

In saying the purpose of this prayer is that they might believe, Jesus is again acting with divine graciousness and mercy. Such belief brings eternal life. Thus, this miracle is not just for the sake of Lazarus and his sisters, who already do have such faith and the life it brings, but for others that they may have life. The miracle reveals Jesus as the life-giver sent from the Father, and one receives life from him as one has faith in him. We see the grace of God evident in several ways in this story. This last miraculous sign continues to reveal the glory of God as have all the others.

After the prayer comes the deed: Jesus called in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" (v. 43). Jesus could have healed Lazarus when he was still sick with a word of command, even across the miles. But now he utters a mightier word across a much greater distance--that between the living and the dead. The voice at the end of the age is heard here ahead of time (cf. 5:28; 1 Thess 4:16). The Word through whom all was made (1:1-3) here speaks forth life. Those standing around were given tasks to do, such as taking away the stone and unbinding Lazarus. The physical contact helped drive home the reality of what was happening. But for Jesus, his work is his word.

Perhaps, as is often suggested, he had to include Lazarus' name or all the dead would have come forth! The dead man still existed as Lazarus and could be called by name, for those who believe in Christ never die (v. 26). Jesus does not actually say something like "Rise" (contrast Mk 5:41 par. Lk 8:54; Lk 7:14). Rather, it seems the very calling of his name brought Lazarus back, and the call to come out that followed was "the command to use the new-given life" (Westcott 1908:2:102).

Lazarus came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face (v. 44), presumably hopping or perhaps shuffling. It is unclear what was involved in burial in the first century (Brown 1994:2:1243-44; Green 1992:89). The NIV assumes we should picture Lazarus as a mummy, with strips of cloth passing around and around his body. This interpretation may be correct (cf. Brown 1994:2:1264), but there is evidence for the use of a single large sheet as the main covering (Brown 1994:2:1244-45). So it has been suggested that the Jewish custom was not to wind the corpse like a mummy, but rather to use a cloth like that of the Shroud of Turin. "The corpse would have been placed on a strip of linen, wide and long enough to envelop it completely. The feet would be placed at one end, and the cloth would then be drawn over the head to the feet, the feet would be bound at the ankles, and the arms secured to the body with linen bandages, and the face bound round with another cloth to keep the jaw in place" (Sanders 1968:276). The separate cloth used to bind up the jaw is mentioned in later sources (m. shabbat 23:5; cf. Safrai and Stern 1974-1976:2:773), though this cloth in verse 44 may refer rather to a covering for the face (Beasley-Murray 1987:195).

Jesus gives yet another command, Take off the grave clothes and let him go (v. 44). This is a cry of victory. The grave has been defeated and liberty achieved. It is only a partial sign of the coming victory of Jesus' resurrection, since Lazarus will need to die again and enter the grave until the final resurrection. But it is a great sign of the life that is stronger than death, which those who believe in Jesus share. And it is a graphic sign of Jesus' own power and authority.

The call to loose Lazarus and let him go picks up "the biblical imagery of `loosing' for victory over death and the powers of evil (for example, Matt. 16:19; Luke 13:16; Acts 2:24; cf. John 8:32-36)" (Michaels 1989:207). As such, this story speaks to all Christians bound by the fear of death and, on another level, bound by various sins. The Christian is in union with the one who himself is resurrection and life. As Christ offers freedom from the power of sin (8:32-36), so faith in Christ as resurrection and life brings freedom from the fear of death (cf. Heb 2:14-15).

Few would deny the theological and spiritual power of this story, but many would question whether the raising of Lazarus ever in fact took place. Some would say miracles do not happen, so therefore this could not have happened. This perspective derives more from prejudice than scientific observation and seems to be on the wane. But even those who believe such a thing could happen are suspicious of this story since it is not recounted in the Synoptics. If this event is so climactic, as John suggests, then this omission is striking. But neither John nor the Synoptics are trying to tell the whole story. John leaves out similar miracles in the Synoptics: the raising of Jairus's' daughter (Mt 9:18-19, 23-26 par. Mk 5:21-24, 35-43 par. Lk 8:40-42, 49-56) and the raising of the widow's son at Nain (Lk 7:11-17). So the omission is not that unusual. John includes this story because he sees in it the theological climax of Jesus' public ministry. It is also, from John's perspective, the key factor in the Jewish leaders' decision to have Jesus eliminated (11:53). John is fitting the pieces together to highlight the truth of what takes place in Jesus' ministry. That is very different from saying he is making up stories to illustrate his theology. "He who wrote the Gospel of the Word made flesh viewed history as of first importance; he would never have related a story of Jesus, still less created one, that he did not have reason to believe took place"

The Plot to Kill Jesus

45Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him. 46But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.
48"What are we accomplishing?" they asked. "Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place[3] and our nation."
49Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, "You know nothing at all! 50You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish."
51He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, 52and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. 53So from that day on they plotted to take his life.
54Therefore Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the Jews. Instead he withdrew to a region near the desert, to a village called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples.

John 11:45-54


Both Faith and Rejection Arise from the Raising of Lazarus (11:45-54) As a result of this miracle there is again a variety of responses. Many put faith in Jesus (v. 45), but others inform the authorities (v. 46). John does not make clear whether their trip to the authorities is innocent or a betrayal of Jesus. At an earlier stage the crowd was well aware of the authorities' concerns over Jesus (7:13, 25), and their animosity deepened significantly at the Feast of Dedication (10:31-39), leading Jesus to withdraw from the area (10:40-42). So it may well be that this is another betrayal of Jesus, similar to the lame man's betrayal earlier in Jesus' ministry (5:15).

The report alarms the Pharisees, and so the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin (v. 47). The Sanhedrin was the supreme Jewish court in Jerusalem, which, under Roman oversight, "had both religious and political powers and comprised the elite (both priestly and lay) of society" (Moulder 1988:331). Both Sadducees and Pharisees were part of the Sanhedrin. Which of the two was the dominate part is uncertain (Schürer 1973-1987:2:213), though John implies it was the chief priests (7:45, 48; cf. 12:10). The chief priests were members of high-priestly families, along with others from prominent priestly families (cf. Acts 4:6), including, perhaps, temple officers like the treasurer and captain of police (Hubbard 1996:961; cf. Jeremias 1969:160-81; Schürer 1973-1987:2:235-36). Of the fifty-four references to chief priests in the Gospels, all of them are associated with Jerusalem, and almost all of them concern Jesus' final conflict (the exceptions are Mt 2:4; Jn 7:32, 45). In John's Gospel the Pharisees are also closely associated with Jerusalem. When John mentions opponents outside Jerusalem or its environs he uses the term "the Jews" (6:41, 52; see comment on 1:19).

Thus the two chief components of the Sanhedrin now call the Sanhedrin together. Both the Pharisees and the chief priests had attempted to apprehend Jesus earlier (7:32, 45), but now the situation is reaching a crisis, as they see his popularity rising. The low point after the feeding of the five thousand, at which almost everyone deserted Jesus (6:66), is now past and many are believing in him. Like many religious leaders since, Jesus is accused of being a threat to national security. Jesus' popularity could look like a popular uprising that would require calling in the Roman legions (cf. Acts 19:23-41, especially 19:40), who would come and take away both our place and our nation (Jn 11:48). As the NIV footnote indicates, place here refers to the temple (cf. H. Koester 1972:204). The position of the word our is emphatic. In fact, this could be translated, "will come and take away from us both our place and our nation." While they seem concerned for the nation, John says they are actually concerned about their own self-interests, as are the hirelings Jesus condemned earlier (10:12; cf. Westcott 1908:2:105). The irony is that they do destroy the temple of Jesus' body (cf. 2:19, 21), but this does not prevent the Romans from destroying their temple and their nation, nor does it prevent increasing numbers of people from believing in Jesus. Their plot prevented neither of the things they feared, even though they succeeded in getting Jesus killed.

Caiaphas, who ruled as high priest for a very long time by the standards of the day (A.D. 18-36), speaks up: You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish (vv. 49-50). Here again the self-interest is evident (for you). This is a very significant statement for John, as is evident from his dwelling on it (vv. 51-52). Unknown to Caiaphas, he had in fact prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation (v. 51). Caiaphas is thinking of Jesus' death in place of the destruction of the nation by Rome, but John sees the divine intent that Jesus die in place of the nation for their sin. Here, along with 1:29, is the clearest expression in this Gospel of Jesus' death as dealing with sin. John focuses on the cross as revelation (Forestell 1974), but here we see that he also affirms the cross as atonement. The cross as revelation alone leads to Gnosticism, as John discovered in his own communities, hence the emphasis in 1 John on the atonement aspect (1 Jn 2:2; 4:10, cf. Whitacre 1982:156-57). But those members of the community who headed off in gnostic directions were not true to John's teaching in its fullness. John's experience in his community is a cautionary tale. Each aspect of the Gospel needs to be in place, or some deformed shape will emerge. The period of the New Testament saw the articulation of a variety of ways to express the Gospel, with the Holy Spirit guiding and protecting. The unity and diversity we now have in the canon provides a composite shape to the faith that is a guide to the truth of the Gospel--that is what "canon" means.

Caiaphas refers to the people (laos) and the nation (ethnos), but in the next verse John only uses nation. The word laos was not used frequently in classical Greek, but it occurs more than two thousand times in the Septuagint, having become "a specific term for a specific people, namely, Israel, and it serves to emphasize the special and privileged religious position of this people as the people of God" (Strathmann and Meyer 1967:32). Thus, John's refusal to use laos may be significant in the light of the theme of Jesus' departure from the temple and the formation of the core of the new community around him (see comments on 8:59 and 10:1-21). "The Jews at this crisis had ceased to be `a people.' They were a `nation' only, as one of the nations of the world. The elements of the true `people' were scattered throughout the world, as Jews, and Jews of the Dispersion, and Gentiles" (Westcott 1908:2:107).

Caiaphas is only thinking of the Jewish nation, but John sees the significance of Jesus' death to extend to all of humanity (v. 52). Jesus death is also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. The idea of gathering together God's scattered people is a hope found extensively in the Old Testament (for example, Is 11:12; Jer 31:8; Ezek 11:17; Mic 2:12-13; 2 Macc 1:27). Now this gathering will begin to take place in the most unusual way--through the death of the Messiah. Jesus' work as the Good Shepherd (10:16) is accomplished through his death, as he himself will emphasize shortly (12:32). So even in this passage, which touches on the atoning significance of his death, other aspects are developed as well. The oneness with God that the atonement accomplishes is complemented by the oneness of the people of God drawn from the whole of the human race. They are already referred to as children of God since each one who enters Christ's community has been given to him by the Father (6:37) and has responded in faith and has been born again (1:12). John places great stress on the individual, but here we see his appreciation of the corporate whole (cf. Brown 1966:443). The nature of this unity will be brought out soon (chaps. 14--17), but for now we see that it is Christ, especially Christ crucified, that unites the people of God.

The Sanhedrin comes to the decision to kill Jesus (v. 53). There had been attempts to take his life already (5:18; 7:1, 19 ; 8:59; 10:31), but now the decision had been reached in an official manner by the central authority for the Jewish people. "Jesus is formally devoted to death by a vote of the competent authority. This is, in fact, the act by which, in its historical or `objective' aspect, the death of Christ is determined" (Dodd 1953:367). They plotted in the NIV does not do justice to the Greek ebouleusanto, which means, rather, that they "resolved," "determined" or even "passed a resolution" (Bammel 1970:30). Thus, by giving life to Lazarus, Jesus has sealed his own death. In what follows we see the even greater irony that through his death comes life for the world.

Jesus knows of this increased danger, though we are not told whether he knows this through an informant, preternatural knowledge or just common sense. He goes back into seclusion once again, this time to Ephraim (v. 54; cf. 10:40). It is not certain where Ephraim was located, though it was probably four miles to the northeast of Bethel, which places it some fifteen miles north-northeast of Jerusalem (cf. Barrett 1978:408; Brown 1966:441). His movement in and out of seclusion shows him working around the intentions of his enemies as he works out the intentions of his Father. There is a similar pattern in his work in the lives of his followers today. He moves in and out of seclusion in our lives, not because his life is threatened but as part of his love for us, to wean us from false attachments, even false views we may have of God himself.

55When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, many went up from the country to Jerusalem for their ceremonial cleansing before the Passover. 56They kept looking for Jesus, and as they stood in the temple area they asked one another, "What do you think? Isn't he coming to the Feast at all?" 57But the chief priests and Pharisees had given orders that if anyone found out where Jesus was, he should report it so that they might arrest him.

John 12

Jesus Anointed at Bethany

1Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2Here a dinner was given in Jesus' honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. 3Then Mary took about a pint[1] of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus' feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
4But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, 5"Why wasn't this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year's wages.[2] " 6He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.
7"Leave her alone," Jesus replied. "It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. 8You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me."
9Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, 11for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him.

John 11:55-57  John 12:1-11


Jesus Is Anointed at Bethany (11:55-12:11)

It is almost time for Passover, and people are going to Jerusalem to prepare for the feast by undergoing ritual purification (v. 55; cf. Westerholm 1992). They are standing in the temple, speculating whether or not Jesus will come to the feast, aware that the chief priests and Pharisees are seeking his arrest (v. 57). Again we see the interested crowd and the antagonistic authorities (cf. 7:11-13, 32, 47-49). But Jesus has already departed from the temple (8:59) and will not be standing where they are standing as they ask such questions. He will come up to this feast, but he will not be coming to the temple. Rather, the one true sacrifice is about to take place in the temple of his body.

This description of Jesus' danger adds a dramatic touch to the fact that he returns to Bethany again (12:1). He is back with Lazarus and his sisters in a relatively private setting. There is a party in his honor six days before the Passover (v. 1), probably on Saturday night after the conclusion of sabbath. It is not said where the party takes place, but from the account in Matthew and Mark it would be at the house of Simon the leper (Mt 26:6 par. Mk 14:3). Lazarus is also an honored guest, while Martha helps with the serving (v. 2), true to the picture of her elsewhere (Lk 10:38-42).

The picture of Mary is also true to that in Luke (10:38-42); that is, she is a devoted disciple who ignores the taboos of her society in her commitment to Jesus. Sitting at his feet as a disciple (Lk 10:39) was not the place for a woman, but she is commended by Jesus (Lk 10:42). Now she acts in an even more scandalous manner in anointing Jesus' feet with extremely expensive perfume and then wiping them with her hair (Jn 12:3).

Both aspects of her action--the extravagance and the method--were disturbing. The pure nard she uses was imported from northern India (Brown 1966:448). Judas says, no doubt correctly, that it was worth a year's wages (v. 5). The text literally reads "three hundred denarii" (cf. NIV note). Since a denarius was a day's pay for a day laborer, the NIV paraphrase is accurate, taking into account feast days and sabbaths when one would not work. A rough equivalent would be something over $10,000, the gross pay for someone working at minimum wage for a year. No wonder the disciples (Mt 26:8), Judas in particular, respond with dismay at such a waste.

In the accounts in Matthew and Mark, she anoints Jesus' head, while in John it is his feet. Obviously, it could have been both, and with twelve ounces to work with (not a full pint, as in the NIV) she could have anointed his whole body. Indeed, since he interprets this as an anointing for his burial (v. 7) it seems she did anoint more than his head and feet, as Matthew and Mark suggest (Mt 26:12 par. Mk 14:8; cf. Carson 1991:426).

The other part of her action that would have been quite disturbing was the wiping of his feet with her hair. Jewish women did not let down their hair in public. This is an expression of devotion that would have come across as extremely improper and even somewhat erotic, as indeed it would in most cultures. There is no indication of why Mary did this act. The most obvious possibility was her sheer gratitude for what Jesus had done for her brother and the revelation it brought to her of Jesus' identity, power, authority and grace. John's focus on her anointing Jesus' feet points to Mary's great humility. As she has come to realize a bit more of the one who has been a friend to her and her brother and sister, her faith deepens and she recognizes her unworthiness. The humility of her act prepares us to be all the more scandalized when Jesus himself washes his disciples' feet in the next chapter.

Whatever Mary's intentions and reason for her action, Jesus sees it in reference to his coming death (v. 7). Jesus sees cryptic significance in another person's actions instead of making his more usual cryptic explanation of his own activity. There is no reason to think Mary knew the full import of what she was doing, any more than Caiaphas knew what he was saying (11:49-51). The people around Jesus are being caught up in the climax of all of salvation history. They are acting for their own reasons, yet they are players in a drama that they do not understand, doing and saying things with significance beyond their imaginings. "Mary in her devotion unconsciously provides for the honour of the dead. Judas in his selfishness unconsciously brings about the death itself" (Westcott 1908:2:112).

Judas' shock at the waste of such costly ointment (vv. 4-5) makes us more aware of Mary's extravagance. According to the Synoptic accounts (Mt 26:8-9 par. Mk 14:4-5), Judas is simply expressing what others were also thinking. Being the treasurer of the group, it would not have surprised anyone to hear him express this concern. So, at the time, Judas' remarks would not have stood out as unusual. But with hindsight John knows there was more motivating him. If Caiaphas and Mary reveal more about Jesus in their actions than they realize, Judas is revealing something deeper about himself. John says Judas used to steal from the common fund (v. 6). It is doubtful that this was known at the time, for if it was Judas would have been relieved of his duties, at the least. But such embezzlement reveals a heart in love with self and in love with money, neither of which have a place in the life of a disciple (cf. Chrysostom In John 65.3). But beyond even this, the deepest sin, of course, was Judas' betrayal of the Lord (v. 4). Every time John mentions Judas he refers to his betrayal (6:71; 13:2, 26-29; 18:2-3, 5). Judas may have thought he was acting for God's glory, as did also the opponents of Jesus, but he, like them, was in fact alienated from God. God's glory will indeed be manifest, but not as Judas thinks.

Judas' heart is thus fundamentally different from the heart of Mary as she lavishes her love and respect upon Jesus. This Gospel provides a great many examples of the difference between faith and unbelief through descriptions of true disciples on the one hand and, on the other, both would-be disciples and Jesus' opponents. But here we have the contrast between a true disciple, Mary, and one of the Twelve, which shows that privilege of position is no substitute for faith and obedience. Chrysostom says that Jesus, even though he knew Judas' heart (6:64), "bare with him, desiring to recall him" (In John 65.2). But Judas, like the Jewish opponents, resisted God's grace.

Jesus' statement in verse 8, You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me, must be understood in its context both within Judaism and salvation history. On one level Jesus is simply reminding Judas and the others of priorities as understood within Judaism. He is alluding to the Scripture "There will always be poor people in the land" (Deut 15:11) and perhaps also to the notion that acts of kindness, such as burial, are higher than works of charity, which would include giving alms to the poor (b. Sukka 49b). This view is based, in part, on the fact that kindness can be shown to the living and the dead (through funerals and burials), whereas charity can only be shown to the living (cf. Brown 1966:449; Barrett 1978:415). So the fact that Jesus is about to die (cf. 12:35-36) justifies Mary's action. But on another level, the identity of Jesus also justifies this action. In the Synoptics even the burying of one's father is put second to responding to Jesus and the call of the kingdom (Mt 8:22 par. Lk 9:60). So this anointing also makes sense given who Jesus is and the awesome events unfolding in salvation history.

Care for the poor is a sacred duty because it is the concern of God's own heart. Those who share in his life will share in his concern for the poor and will act appropriately as he guides. This diversion of funds from the poor for the sake of Jesus' burial implies that there are times for such exceptional use of funds. But it also implies that the funds would usually go to the poor and that this is the proper thing to do. John's "suggestion that Judas did not care about the poor (v. 6) has implied in passing that Christians should care" (Michaels 1989:218).

This section concludes with a description of a large crowd seeking out Jesus there at the party, attracted also by Lazarus' presence (v. 9). Many Jews were putting their faith in Jesus because of Lazarus, so he was included in the authorities most-wanted list (vv. 10-11). Obviously, Jesus' popularity is rising once again. Lazarus was a living sign of Jesus' identity as life and life-giver, victor over death.

The crowd's faith in Jesus makes prominent the authorities' rejection of Jesus. It also points up the weakness of the authorities' control at this point. Things were getting out of hand for them because their control was slipping. "In not going directly to the chief priests, the crowd was defying the Sanhedrin and protecting two fugitives rather than one" (Michaels 1989:216). But this slip in their control is in fact quite true to the circumstances, for the whole effort of the Sanhedrin is quite futile. They seek to kill Lazarus, but if Jesus raised him once why could he not do it again (cf. Augustine In John 50.14)? Their great weapon of control is useless against the Lord of life and his followers.

The statement many of the Jews were going over to Jesus (v. 11) in the Greek is simply "many were going." But the NIV captures the correct sense that "many Jews left their former Jewish allegiance and way of life to become disciples" (Barrett 1978:415). Jesus' alternative community continues to grow as people shift their allegiance from the Jewish authorities to him.

The Triumphal Entry

12The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. 13They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,
   "Hosanna![3] "
   "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"[4]
   "Blessed is the King of Israel!" 14Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written,
    15"Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion;
       see, your king is coming,
       seated on a donkey's colt."[5]
16At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that they had done these things to him.
17Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. 18Many people, because they had heard that he had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet him. 19So the Pharisees said to one another, "See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!"
John 12:12-19


Jesus Enters Jerusalem as King of Israel (12:12-19)

The scene now shifts from a private setting to a public setting. Given the tensions and expectations that have been growing (cf. 10:39-42; 11:46-57; 12:11), Jesus' entry into Jerusalem is very dramatic. By openly entering the city where he is a marked man he takes the first step toward the final confrontation.

Passover was one of the three feasts that Jews were supposed to attend in Jerusalem, and consequently the population of Jerusalem swelled enormously at this time. As this great crowd is beginning to gather from around Israel and the larger world of the diaspora, news about Jesus is spreading, and people are wondering whether he will come to the feast (11:55-56). On Sunday, the day after the party in Bethany at which Mary anointed Jesus, news arrives that Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem (v. 12), and a crowd of pilgrims, presumably those who had been wondering if he would come, goes out to meet him. Mary's private expression of emotion is now matched by the crowd's public outpouring of enthusiasm.

They shout Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! (v. 13). These are lines from one of the Psalms of Ascents (Ps 118:25-26) sung as a welcome to pilgrims coming up to Jerusalem. As such, this is an entirely appropriate thing to do as Jesus is coming up to Jerusalem. But there is more involved here. The cry of Hosanna! is a Hebrew word (hoshi`ah-na) that had become a greeting or shout of praise but that actually meant "Save!" or "Help!" (an intensive form of imperative). Not surprisingly, forms of this word were used to address the king with a need (cf. 2 Sam 14:4; 2 Kings 6:26). Furthermore, the palm branches the people carry are symbolic of a victorious ruler (cf. 1 Macc 13:51; 2 Macc 10:7; 14:4). Indeed, in an apocalyptic text from the Maccabean era, palms are mentioned in association with the coming of the messianic salvation on the Mount of Olives (Testament of Naphtali 5). The cry of Hosanna! and the palm branches are in themselves somewhat ambiguous, but their import is made clear as the crowd adds a further line, Blessed is the King of Israel! (v. 13). Clearly they see in Jesus the answer to their nationalistic, messianic hopes. Earlier a crowd had wanted to make Jesus king (6:15), and now this crowd is recognizing him as king in the city of the great King. Here is the great dream of a Davidic ruler who would come and liberate Israel, establishing peace and subduing the Gentiles (cf. Psalms of Solomon 17:21-25).

Jesus responds by finding a young donkey to sit on (v. 14), thereby making a mess of the picture they were creating. He should have found a horse to ride on or made use of some other symbol of power. Instead he paints from a different palette. His action undercuts their nationalism and points in a different direction, evoking an image from the Prophets: Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey's colt (v. 15; from Zech 9:9). He is indeed king, but not the sort of king they have in mind.

John says the disciples did not make the connection with the passage from Zechariah at the time: At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that they had done these things to him (v. 16). The word translated realize is emnesthesan, "remember," the same word used to describe their recollection and insight into the cleansing of the temple (2:22). At the time they were caught up in the swirl of events and did not really understand what was going on. From what we know of them elsewhere, they probably shared the nationalistic hopes of the crowd (for example, Acts 1:6). The disciples and the crowd thought they were honoring Jesus, and they were. But they did not really understand the true meaning of what was happening nor even what they were saying. They did not put the events of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem and the Scripture together, so they did not grasp what had taken place until after Jesus had been glorified. They needed to see the revelation at it greatest in the death and resurrection of Jesus and to have the help of the Spirit who was not available to them until after the glorification (7:39) before they understood the significance of these events (cf. 15:26; 16:13-14).

The meaning of what takes place is conveyed through both the Scripture shouted by the crowd at the time and the Scripture that occurred to the disciples later. The crowd shouted, "Help!" and "Save!" and Jesus has come precisely to help and save them, though it will not be through the political liberation the crowd expects. The crowd chants a line from a Psalm of Ascent: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! (v. 13, from Ps 118:26). This line applies to Jesus in a way it never had to anyone else before. Jesus is the one who makes known the Father and has come in the Father's name (5:43), and he desires that the Father's name be made known (17:6, 26). So of him it is uniquely true that he comes in the name of the Lord. This expression is one way of summarizing his whole mission.

The crowd, in their messianic, nationalistic fervor, adds another line not found in the Psalm of Ascent: Blessed is the King of Israel! (v. 13). This acclamation ties together the whole of Jesus' ministry up to this point, signaled by the word Israel. Apart from this verse, the words Israel and Israelite occur only in the first three chapters. John the Baptist's witness to Israel (1:31) finds its initial response in the confession of Nathanael, a true Israelite (1:47), when Nathanael confesses Jesus to be the Son of God, the King of Israel (1:49). Nathanael stands in marked contrast to Nicodemus, a teacher of Israel (3:10), who is unable to understand earthly things, let alone heavenly things. So the first three chapters are characterized by a concern with the initial witness to Israel, and this motif now finds its fullness in this crowd's acclamation of Jesus as the King of Israel. Jesus is indeed King of Israel, and this motif now comes to the fore as the story nears its end (cf. 18:33-39; 19:3, 12-15, 19-21). His kingdom, however, far transcends Israel's boundaries. "What honor was it to the Lord to be King of Israel? What great thing was it to the King of eternity to become the King of men?" (Augustine In John 51.4). Augustine's language is too dismissive to be true to John at this point, but he does help us keep the Johannine perspective on the identity of the one entering Jerusalem.

The crowd is probably not aware that the line they have added to the acclamation is an echo of another passage that further contributes to the depth of revelation concerning Jesus in this story: "The Lord, the King of Israel, is with you; never again will you fear any harm" (Zeph 3:15). The context in Zephaniah is of the future time of peace when Jerusalem is no longer at war--the lame and the scattered have been brought home, and even the Gentiles have been purified so that they might call on the name of the Lord (3:9-20). The hallmark of this time is the Lord's own presence (3:15, 17). For Zephaniah, as for this crowd, such a scene was the anticipated outcome of the final battle with the Gentiles, which would liberate Israel once and for all. But John has shown that the realities described by Zephaniah are already taking place in the midst of Israel through the ministry of Jesus, though in a very different manner. Key themes in Zephaniah's description are heard also in the previous chapters in John. In particular, the bringing together of both Jew and Gentile was said to be the work of the Good Shepherd (10:4, 16), and the picture of life in the messianic kingdom is alluded to in Jesus' promise of abundant life (10:10), which was then further revealed in the raising of Lazarus (chap. 11). Thus, the crowd's nationalistic agenda is thrown into relief. "They should not be acclaiming him as an earthly king, but as the manifestation of the Lord their God who has come into their midst (Zeph 3:17) to gather the outcast" (Brown 1966:462). If they had eyes to see what Jesus was doing and ears to hear what he was saying they would find in him the fulfillment of their desires, though without the nationalistic element.

The Scripture passage that occurs to the disciples later is also, like the acclamation of the crowd, a composite text. The first part, Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion (v. 15), probably comes from the passage we have just examined in Zephaniah (3:16). The exhortation not to fear is very common in Scripture, but the Zephaniah passage is the closest to the full expression in John (Brown 1966:458). Thus, the crowd's acclamation and this later Scripture are tied together in John through Zephaniah, though not in the thinking of those in the midst of the event. The magnificent picture of eschatological peace in Zephaniah is behind this lack of fear. The fulfillment of this promise of peace is taking place right before the eyes of this crowd, though they do not know it.

The rest of the quote comes from Zechariah: "Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey" (Zech 9:9). As with the Zephaniah passage, this verse from Zechariah foresees the coming of the messianic age of peace, when the war-horses are taken from Jerusalem and the king will reign "from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth" (Zech 9:10). John has abbreviated the citation, and he probably did this for the sake of simplicity rather than in an effort to exclude the themes of righteousness, salvation and gentleness. Donkeys and mules were used by important persons and kings in the Old Testament (for example, Judg 10:4; 12:14; 2 Sam 13:29; 18:9), including David himself (1 Kings 1:33), but the contrast in this context in Zechariah 9 is between the warhorses (v. 10) and the donkey on which the king rides (v. 9) is a striking image of humility. The king is righteous, blameless in the eyes of the law, which reminds one of the controversies in this Gospel over who is the true disciple of Moses. The "having salvation" is a form that could be either passive or reflexive (Niphal, nosha`). This means that this king has himself been delivered by God (passive) or that he shows himself to be a deliverer (reflexive)--either sense is true of Jesus as revealed in this Gospel. Thus, by riding on a donkey, Jesus connects with a rich picture of the messianic king, thereby providing insight for interpreting his own identity and plans as he enters Jerusalem on this particular Sunday at the time of Passover.

John gives us a report on both the crowd and the opponents, as he does elsewhere in this Gospel. The repetition of the word "crowd" (ochlos) is a little awkward (Jn 12:17-18). Verse 18 reads literally, "Because of this the crowd went out to meet him, because they heard he had done this sign," which makes it sound like what was described in verse 12. The NIV has the right sense--the number of people gathering around Jesus was continuing to grow, spurred on by the report by those who had seen the raising of Lazarus (vv. 17-18). Despite the awkward expression, this is an important note for John to add, for it continues to connect the raising of Lazarus to what is now going on. John does not let us forget that the one who is heading toward his death is the Lord of life.

While the crowds build, the Pharisees, on the other hand, are getting more and more upset. The translation See, this is getting us nowhere (v. 19) is too weak. The verbs are in the second-person plural, capturing the mutual condemnation they are throwing at one another: "You guys see that you are doing no good." The crowd around Jesus is so large that they conclude, Look how the whole world has gone after him! (v. 19). This exaggeration expresses their dismay and frustration, but of course it is also yet another example in John of people's words being more significant than they realize.

A series of different people are coming to Jesus. First, we heard just before the triumphal entry that "many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him" (12:11). Second, the Pharisees speak of the world (v. 19 ) probably because they are seeing even Jews from the diaspora, who are in town for the feast, being attracted to Jesus. But the world that God loves and for which he sent his Son (3:16) includes all humanity. Representatives of the third group, the Gentiles, appear in the next section as some Greeks who are seeking Jesus arrive. The Good Shepherd is indeed gathering his flock from the whole world (10:16) in fulfillment of the prophecies of the universal messianic kingdom such as those found in Zechariah and Zephaniah. Jesus continues to form his community apart from the official structures of Judaism. The same witness to Jesus that disturbs the leaders might have instead encouraged them to reconsider their rejection of Jesus and come to him for life. But they continue in their hardened position against Jesus, rejecting his love for them.

Jesus Predicts His Death

20Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the Feast. 21They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. "Sir," they said, "we would like to see Jesus." 22Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.
23Jesus replied, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.
27"Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour'? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28Father, glorify your name!"
29Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it, and will glorify it again." The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.
30Jesus said, "This voice was for your benefit, not mine. 31Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. 32But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself." 33He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.
34The crowd spoke up, "We have heard from the Law that the Christ[6] will remain forever, so how can you say, 'The Son of Man must be lifted up'? Who is this 'Son of Man'?"
35Then Jesus told them, "You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. The man who walks in the dark does not know where he is going. 36Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light." When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them.

John 12:20-36


Jesus' Hour Arrives (12:20-36)

Some Greeks now come to see Jesus, signaling to him that his long awaited hour has arrived (vv. 20-23). Jesus speaks of the mystery of life coming through death, applying this to his own death (vv. 24-33). In the midst of this teaching the Father himself bears witness to Jesus from heaven, but the crowd has a mixed response to the Father's voice, just as they have had to Jesus, the Father's Word (vv. 28-30). The section concludes with the crowd's raising further questions about the identity of the Son of Man, but Jesus does not engage them in discussion. His teaching to the world has been completed. He simply exhorts them to receive the light while they still can (vv. 34-36).

John has already called our attention to the crowds gathering for Passover and their interest in whether Jesus would come to the feast (11:55-56). Then the crowd welcomed Jesus with great acclamations (12:12- 18). Now from among this Passover crowd one particular group comes forward to meet Jesus. These Greeks are not Greek-speaking Jews but rather Gentiles, whether from Greece or elsewhere (Barrett 1978:421). The fact that they went up to worship at the Feast (v. 20) suggests they were proselytes. Josephus says there were many such foreigners who would come up to the feast, though they could not actually partake of the sacrifice (Jewish Wars 6.427-28), since they had not fully entered Judaism. These were pious Gentiles who were attracted to Judaism. They had come to the feast to worship God, suggesting an openness of heart to God. Their interest in the things of God leads them to Jesus.

It is not clear why they approach Philip (v. 21). Perhaps they heard someone call Philip by name and thought because he had a Greek name he might be more responsive to them. Perhaps Philip dressed in a Greek style. In any event, they come to Philip and say, Sir, . . . we would like to see Jesus (v. 21). Earlier, Philip had told Nathaniel to come and see Jesus (1:46), and now these Greeks have come and want to see Jesus, thus signaling that a new stage has been reached in Jesus' ministry (see comment on 12:23). When they say they want to see Jesus they are simply asking to meet with him, but the motif of sight is a major expression for revelation in this Gospel. Indeed, their request sums up the right attitude of any disciple and the core focus of any ministry. This request, "Sir, we would see Jesus," has been attached to more than one pulpit as a guideline for the preacher.

Philip does not go straight to Jesus with the Greeks' request, but rather to Andrew, who was from Philip's town (1:44). This may bear witness to Philip's humility, but more likely it shows how unusual the situation was. Jesus has had contact with non-Jews (cf., probably, 4:43-53), but very rarely. He has taught much about the universal scope of God's love, but the full implications of this were not grasped by his followers until later. The nationalism stirred up during Jesus' entry into Jerusalem might make the disciples uncertain about such a request, though these Greeks were proselytes. It seems Philip simply needs some encouragement to approach the Lord when faced with this new and stretching situation. He goes to Andrew, who seems to have been a trusting person who was willing to speak up even when it seemed foolish (6:8-9). If we are stymied by a situation, it helps to have a friend with whom to go to the Lord, not to demand of the Lord but simply to lay before him the situation.

Quite often Jesus has responded to questions and situations with cryptic sayings, and this is no exception. When Andrew and Philip announce the coming of the Greeks something wondrous happens. It triggers the moment the reader has been anticipating since the story began: Jesus replied, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified" (v. 23). As with all his cryptic sayings, this response addresses the issue, but it does so in ways incomprehensible at the time. He does not speak directly to the Greeks, but he speaks of their place in his community in the future. For he reveals that it is time for his death to take place, through which a great crop will be produced (v. 24) as he draws all men to himself (v. 32). Thus, verse 24 answers the Greeks indirectly, for through his death he "will become accessible for them as the exalted Lord" (Bultmann 1971:424).

It may seem strange to refer to Jesus' death as a glorification. But the death is at the heart of the Son's revelation of the Father, for God is love and love is the laying down of one's life (cf. 1 Jn 4:8; 3:16). So in the cross the heart of God is revealed most clearly. Selflessness and humble self-sacrifice are seen to be divine attributes. Throughout his life Jesus has done the Father's will, and such selflessness is a key component in the eternal life he offers. God's own life is a life of love that denies self for the sake of the beloved, and therefore such love is the very nature of life itself, real life. "Sacrifice, self-surrender, death, is the condition of the highest life: selfishness is the destruction of life" (Westcott 1908:2:123). Thus, the cross is not just a one-time event that atones for sin, though it is certainly that. It is the most dramatic case in point of the pattern of divine life that exists for all time.

Jesus proceeds to speak of the mystery of life coming through death. He uses the image of a seed that must fall into the ground and die in order to produce "much fruit" (v. 24, polyn karpon; the NIV many seeds is unjustified). The contrast between remaining "alone" (monos; NIV, only a single seed) and bearing much fruit indicates that the fruit Jesus speaks of are people, the fruit of evangelism. But a second meaning of fruit is also present: through his death fruit will be produced in the lives of his followers, namely, the very quality of life, divine life, revealed in the death (cf. 15:1-8). The next verses spell out this connection between fruit and discipleship.

Jesus begins speaking in general terms: The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life (v. 25). Here is the call to radical discipleship, similar to those found earlier in Jesus' ministry in the Synoptics (Mt 16:24-26 par. Mk 8:34-37 par. Lk 9:23-25; Mt 10:39 par. Lk 17:33; cf. Brown 1966:473-74). The word for life (psyche) does not only refer to physical life; it is more comprehensive than that, taking in one's whole being, one's "self." The self was not created to be an autonomous center of being, but rather to be in union with God and receive life from him. "Psyche is the life which is given to man by God and which through man's attitude toward God receives its character as either mortal or eternal" (Schweizer 1974:644). The love of this self as such is at the heart of all sin, beginning with the rebellion in the Garden of Eden. That rebellion brought death and continues to bring death. When Jesus says the one who loves this self will lose it he does not mean "misplace" it but rather "destroy" it (apollyei).

What is needed is a detachment from this self, and this is what is meant in verse 25 by hates (Michel 1967:690-91). When Jesus says the disciple must hate father and mother (Lk 14:26) he does not mean despise, reject and abominate in an absolute sense. He is speaking about choices and attachments. He means the devotion and obedience to himself must be so thorough that nothing else is distracting. The same language is used when he teaches that one can only serve one master (Mt 6:24 par. Lk 16:13). So Jesus is not speaking of a hatred of the "self" itself but rather of a rejection of the self's claims to autonomy and control. Indeed, rejecting the false claims of the self in this world is actually a way of caring for one's true self, for thereby one will keep it for eternal life (v. 25). Thus, this passage is not referring to self-destruction or masochism; it calls one to reject the way of rebellion and live in the light of eternity. At the heart of discipleship is love, and at the heart of love is sacrifice.

Such denial of self opens one to receive the divine life that never dies (11:25-26), which comes through union with Christ by the Spirit, as Jesus will soon go on to teach his followers privately. Already now, while he is still teaching publicly, he refers to this reality in more general terms: Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me (v. 26). He has been speaking of his death and now says the servant must follow the master. So we continue to hear the Synoptic theme of taking up one's cross and following Jesus.

The reward of such obedience, even through death, is twofold: to be with Jesus and to be honored by the Father. Jesus has been living in the presence of God and is returning to the presence of God, so this is a promise of being with Christ in the presence of God. The honor we receive from the Father comes from our union with Christ, the one whom the Father honors throughout. Such union with God in Christ and such honor from the Father are what we were created for and what we rejected in the rebellion in the Garden of Eden. It is only through a death to the false, rebellious self that we can receive such life and return to our true humanity in union with God. In a sense, then, these two verses contain the core description of discipleship. "Self must be displaced by another; the endless, shameless focus on self must be displaced by focus on Jesus Christ, who is the supreme revelation of God" (Carson 1991:439). This death to the false self is a form of suffering. Christ's call may also include actual physical suffering as well: like master, like disciple (cf. 15:18--16:4). "Christ draws men to fellowship with himself, alike in suffering and in the presence of God" (Beasley-Murray 1987:212).

Jesus is under no delusion that hating yourself is easy. After saying what is necessary for his servants to follow him, he reveals the agony he himself is experiencing: Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? "Father, save me from this hour"? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour (v. 27). In John's Gospel, there is a greater emphasis than in the Synoptics on Jesus' calmness and control as he faces various difficulties. This verse is John's allusion to the agony of Gethsemane, which shows us that John realizes Jesus' death did not cost him nothing. Indeed, the parallel between this verse and the scene in Gethsemane may be closer than the NIV suggests. The statement Father, save me from this hour could be taken as Jesus' actual prayer, rather than as a hypothetical prayer he is considering (cf. Carson 1991:440). In this case, Jesus actually prays to be saved from the hour and then immediately rejects this prayer, as he does in the Synoptics (Mk 14:36, toned down in Mt 26:39 par. Lk 22:42).

When Jesus says my heart is troubled (he psyche mou tetaraktai) he is quoting from Psalm 6, in which David says, "My soul is in anguish" (Ps 6:3; cf. LXX: he psyche mou etarachthe sphodra). But although David then prays for salvation (soson me, Ps 6:4 and Jn 12:27), Jesus does not have that option if he is to fulfill the will of his Father. The majority of Old Testament references in John's account of the Passion, beginning here, are taken from psalms referring to a righteous sufferer.

This verse gives us a glimpse into the reality of the incarnation. John has revealed as clearly as anyone the fullness of Christ's deity, but he has also stated clearly that the Word became flesh (1:14). In becoming flesh, the Word did not empty himself of his divine attributes, as many have wrongly inferred from Philippians 2:7. But in Jesus' becoming fully man, his divine attributes worked within the confines of true humanity, somewhat like a Mozart symphony being played on a kazoo. Human nature in its true, unfallen state is capable of expressing much more of the divine nature than we could have dreamed based on our experience, which is limited to fallen, rebellious, spiritually dead human nature. (This is why, in passing, all attempts to do Christology "from below" are doomed to failure.) But true, sinless humanity is here seen to be tempted with rebellion against God and his will. We are back to the Garden, but this time the one who represents us chooses wisely.

In Jesus' struggle we see that temptation itself is not a sin. We also see the real agony involved in dying to self. But there is a great difference between what we face and what Jesus faced. The actual form this death to self takes for us is the exact opposite from what Jesus faced here. In our case, we must die to our false self, which is in rebellion against God. We must detach from "all the vain things that charm me most." Many of these may even be good in themselves, but they are idols we worship. They are attachments and addictions that give us pleasure; they are centered in self and disruptive of relationship with God and our fellow human beings. In Jesus' case, this dying to self is the reverse: he is living in union with God and must give that up to fulfill the role of Lamb of God, "who takes away the sin of the world" (1:29). He must die by taking upon himself our alienation and the effects of our rebellion. His agony is the agony of a death to self, and so it is like ours, but it is far more profound and painful. Yet it is precisely his union with God as the Son that enables him to go through with it, for in that union he shares in the divine love that leads inexorably to such a sacrifice.

As Son of God in union with the good and loving Father, Jesus responds, Father, glorify your name! (v. 28). The concept of the name is very important (see comment on 1:12; cf. Bietenhard 1967). The name is the person himself or herself as made accessible to others. It is the handle by which one is known. It represents the person and thus their character, their honor or dishonor. To glorify is to turn the spotlight on someone or something and to reveal that which is worthy of praise. In the cross the heart of God is revealed more clearly than anywhere else, and those who grasp what the cross reveals about God cannot help but be awestruck.

In verse 23 Jesus had said it was time for the Son of Man to be glorified, and now he calls upon the Father to glorify his own name. This connection is yet another indication that Jesus' closeness to the Father transcends the association of a mere human agent (see comment on 5:21). These two verses "are perhaps an indication of the equation of Jesus with the name of God" (Bietenhard 1967:272 n. 195; cf. 13:31-32).

Jesus' whole life has been about glorifying the Father's name, as the heavenly voice testifies: I have glorified it, and will glorify it again (v. 28). This confirms Jesus' past revelation of the Father and the revelation that is to come in the future. Throughout the story "the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth," (1:14) has been revealed, and now the Father himself bears witness to this fact. The future glory includes the cross, the scandalous event that seems furthest from God's glory.

When the Father himself speaks from heaven within the crowd's hearing the people are divided over what has happened, with some saying it thundered and others saying an angel spoke with Jesus (v. 29). There is ambiguity to everything divine in this world, and this ambiguity tests hearts. The opponents have never heard God's voice (5:37), and now when God himself speaks it does them no good. The responses to this voice, therefore, are similar to the responses to Jesus' cryptic sayings. Some relate the voice to the divine realm and thus at least put it in the right perspective, even if they do not understand it. The others hear only noise. The voice testifies to the Father and the Son, but to no avail.

They have not understood this voice, but Jesus says this voice is for their benefit (v. 30). In saying this he is giving them the opportunity to realize they are missing something; perhaps they "might be led to inquire what the words meant" (Chrysostom In John 67.2). It is an invitation to become open and receptive to him. Jesus affirms that a message has been transmitted and that if they did not get it then something is wrong with their receivers. Indeed, he goes on to spell out that they are not missing just any message. He indicates that they are in the midst of the most significant events in human history: Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself (vv. 31-32). The cross will look like the defeat and the end of Jesus, but in fact it will be his glorification (v. 23), the defeat of the evil one and the drawing together of Jesus' community from among all humanity. The phrase lifting up echoes the description of the Suffering Servant in the fourth of the Servant Songs in Isaiah (Is 52:13--53:12; cf. Brown 1966:478). The description of the Servant being "raised and lifted up and highly exalted" is followed by a description of people being appalled at him because he was disfigured and marred (Is 52:13-14). This strange combination is seen in the lifting up of Jesus on the cross. The Servant is rejected and despised as he takes on the transgressions of the world (Is 53:3-12). This Servant Song will be directly quoted in John 12:38, but already its imagery is evident.

The judgment is a revelation of the true state of affairs and a division among humanity (cf. Jn 3:19-21; 5:22-30), a work that the Spirit will continue after the departure of Jesus (16:8-11). World here and in the rest of the Gospel refers to that which is in rebellion against God, especially in the religion of God's own people. There may be much talk of God and much activity for him that essentially is motivated by a love of self and has nothing to do with God. The cross exposed this terrifying reality and condemned it. The only true religion is complete submission to God, as we see in Jesus' submission to the Father. The cross exposes and condemns all that does not have the Father as its source.

The reference to the prince of this world being driven out (v. 31) probably does not refer to the devil's being cast out of heaven (Rev 12) or his being cast out from this world, since John is well aware that Satan's influence continues after the cross (1 Jn 5:19). Satan is not yet destroyed (cf. Rev 20), but clearly his power has been broken. It is now possible to live free from his control. Augustine writes,

Where is he cast out from? From heaven and earth? From this created universe? No, he is cast out of the hearts of believers. Since the invader has been cast out, let the Redeemer dwell within, because the same one who created was also the one who redeemed. The devil now assaults from without but does not conquer the Redeemer who now has taken possession within the believer. The devil assaults from without by throwing various temptations into the believer, but the person to whom God speaks within, and who has the anointing of the Spirit, does not consent to these temptations. (Augustine In First John 4.1)

Thus, it is precisely the victory of the cross that enables the believer to hate his life in this world and keep it for eternal life (v. 25). Believers can claim the defeat of Satan at the cross, and they can effectually break his spell through union with Christ (which the Lord will speak of in coming chapters) and, by God's grace, through focusing attention on God and detaching attention from that which is not of God. As one is united to Christ one comes to share in his own life of sacrifice, which includes, as Paul says, the fact that "our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin" (Rom 6:6).

For Jesus' talk about judgment on this world and the driving out of the prince of this world (v. 31) is the language of warfare (cf. Heb 2:14-15). He has come into enemy-occupied territory, defeated the ruler who had usurped the region, revealed the true state of bondage that had existed under this false ruler and reclaimed it for its rightful ruler. As a returning king might set up his flag to rally his subjects to him after defeating the one who had taken over his realm, so Jesus speaks of a rallying point: But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself (v. 32). Here is the banner Isaiah spoke of when he wrote, "In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious" (Is 11:10; cf. Is 11:11-12). Here is the fulfillment of the messianic prophecies that the tribes of the earth will gather on Mt. Zion to worship God (for example, Is 2:1-5; Mic 4:1-5; Zech 14:16-19). But the gathering place is not the temple, for Jesus has replaced the temple. The one sacrifice on the cross will fulfill the function of the sacrifices of the temple, and in Jesus' own person (to myself) is the presence of God, whom they went to the temple to worship. The new community is grounded in the work of the cross (cf. Pryor 1992:172).

The language used (all men) is very sweeping. It could refer to the nations, which fits with the coming of the Greeks in this context (cf. Chrysostom In John 67.3; Barrett 1978:427). B. F. Westcott, however, says the phrase "must not be limited in any way" (1908:2:129), for God's love for the whole world is revealed on the cross. Christ is "the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world" (1 Jn 2:2). Indeed, some manuscripts, versions and church fathers (most notably p66, followed by all Latin versions; cf. Irenaeus Against Heresies 4.2.7; Augustine In John 52.11) read not all men (pantas) but "all things" (panta), pointing to the cosmic implications of Christ's death (cf. Rom 8:19-22; Eph 1:10; Col 1:20). John does not suggest, however, that everyone will in fact be drawn to Jesus. The present text shows folk rejecting him or simply being confused, and the next section is a reflection on the mystery of unbelief (12:37-43). Satan, the jailer, has been mortally wounded, and Jesus, the liberator, is standing in the cell, but many prisoners prefer to remain in bondage!

This prediction of his death shows the kind of death he was going to die (v. 33). On one level this reveals Jesus' role as a prophet and how all is working out according to God's sovereign purposes. But more is involved, since in Judaism not knowing the day of one's death was considered part of the human condition (for example, Mekilta on Ex 16:32). Thus, John "is deliberately setting Jesus alongside God when he has Him know the manner of His own death" (Rengstorf 1971:265).

John writes next about the crowd's response to this teaching (v. 34). This is the last time the crowd speaks to Jesus in this Gospel. They were not able to understand the voice of the Father, and now we see they are not able to understand the Son either. They pick up on Jesus' reference to being lifted up and try to make sense of it by fitting it into their own framework derived from the law. This use of the law has been a stumbling block throughout this Gospel, so it is fitting to see one more example of it at the end of Jesus' public ministry.

They say, We have heard from the Law that the Christ will remain forever, so how can you say, "The Son of Man must be lifted up"? (v. 34). Some Jews expected a messiah who would reign for a limited time (2 Esdras 7:28-30; perhaps 2 Apocalypse of Baruch 30:1), but others expected an eternal reign (Testament of Reuben 6:12; Sibylline Oracles 3:48; 1 Enoch 49:2; Psalms of Solomon 17:4; cf. Talbert 1992:187). There is, however, no text in the Old Testament that says the Christ will remain forever. Perhaps the allusion is to the eternal reign itself, which could be derived from some passages (Ps 72:17; 89:35-37; Is 9:7; Ezek 37:25). More likely the crowd is referring to a Targum, a rendition of an Old Testament text in the synagogue. Perhaps the best candidate is Targum of Isaiah 9:5: "The prophet saith to the house of David, A child has been born to us, a son has been given to us; and he has taken the law upon himself to keep it, and his name has been called from of old, Wonderful counselor, Mighty God, He who lives for ever, the Anointed one (or, Messiah), in whose days peace shall increase upon us" (cf. McNeil 1977: 23-24). Here the Messiah is explicitly called "He who lives for ever." Since the peaceful reign of the Messiah is also referred to here, perhaps this passage occurred to some of the people when they saw Jesus riding a donkey, which signaled peace rather than war (Jn 12:14-15). With this text in mind they are then confused by Jesus' statement that he, whom they are taking to be the Messiah, must be lifted up and (apparently) not live for ever.

John's editing of the material here is a bit awkward because he does not report that Jesus used the term Son of Man (v. 32), though the Johannine reader realizes Jesus had used this exact expression earlier (3:14). This awkwardness could be due to the way the sources have been edited (see, for example, Bultmann 1971:354) or simply due to the way John is telling the story--what B. F. Westcott refers to as "the compression of the narrative" (1908:2:130). Bringing in the Son of Man at this point juxtaposes the term Christ with the term Son of Man. In this way the messianic expectations of the crowds, as seen in the triumphal entry, are confounded by Jesus' more distinctive language for himself, which refers to the Messiah from heaven who brings God's life and judgment, especially through the cross (cf. comments on 3:13-14 and 5:27). Messiahship must be understood in terms of the cross, and this confuses the crowd.

They ask the right question--Who is this "Son of Man"?--for the key to all their questions is Jesus' identity. Jesus appears to avoid their question, instead issuing an admonition for them to pay attention to what they have already seen and heard. But in fact he answers them in a profound way, for he implies that he is the light (v. 35). The fact that this light will be with them only a short time longer corresponds to his earlier reference to being lifted up. In calling upon them to walk while you have the light he is calling upon them to become his disciples and follow him (cf. v. 26). If they do not walk while they have the light then the darkness will overtake them. The image may be of sunset: if they do not keep moving with the sun they will end up in the darkness, and one who walks in the dark does not know where he is going. In other words, they will only become more confused if they do not put their faith in Jesus and become his disciples.

If they do put their trust in the light they themselves will become sons of light (v. 36). The expression "son of" is a Hebrew expression that points to an important characteristic of the one described. For example, Judas is called a "son of perdition" (17:12, RSV). The expression "sons of light" was used by the Qumran community of themselves (for example, Rule of the Community 1.9; War Scroll 1.1) and is found in Paul's writings (1 Thess 5:5; Eph 5:8). In the Christian context, however, especially in this passage in John, more is involved than just the description of a characteristic of the believer. The term son must be viewed in light of the teaching regarding the filial relationship with God that is offered in Jesus. For faith in Christ gives believers "the right to become children of God" (Jn 1:12). Jesus' followers share in his own life through their faith in him, and because Jesus himself is the light, they are sons of light as they share in his light. Just as believers need not fear death because they have life itself in their relation with the one who is himself resurrection and life (11:25-26), so also they need not fear the darkness because they have light through their relationship with him who is the light. "Those who believe in Jesus themselves take on the quality of light and so never walk in darkness" (Barrett 1978:429).

Jesus is inviting this crowd to become his disciples. This teaching is an example of the judgment of the world and the shining of the light because it contains both revelation and judgment. Jesus' very admonition and warning are also an invitation. He did not come to condemn but to save, so even his condemnations have the potential for leading to salvation. This is a consistent theme in Scripture--one must take advantage of the opportunity to repent because there will come a time when it will not be possible to do so.

When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them (v. 36). He had hidden himself before (8:59), signaling a departure from the temple. Now he departs from the people themselves. This is a further development of the theme of judgment, and it leads to John's own reflections on the rejection the Son of God encountered when he entered the world.

The Jews Continue in Their Unbelief

37Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. 38This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet:
   "Lord, who has believed our message
       and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?"[7]
39For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere:
    40"He has blinded their eyes
       and deadened their hearts,
   so they can neither see with their eyes,
       nor understand with their hearts,
       nor turn--and I would heal them."[8] 41Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus' glory and spoke about him.
42Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; 43for they loved praise from men more than praise from God.

John 12:37-43


John Reflects on the Tragedy of Unbelief (12:37-43)

John summarizes the unbelief of Jesus' fellow Jews in words that express how tragic and inexcusable is this rejection by "his own" (1:11): Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him (v. 37). While this rejection was tragic and inexcusable, it was not completely surprising to those who understood the Scriptures. These opponents, who have taken such pride in Moses, have in fact repeated the pattern of those Israelites Moses condemned. "With your own eyes you saw those great trials, those miraculous signs and great wonders. But to this day the Lord has not given you a mind that understands or eyes that see or ears that hear" (Deut 29:3-4; cf. Brown 1966:485).

Furthermore, their rejection was actually a fulfillment of Isaiah: This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet: "Lord, who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?" (v. 38). The text comes from the fourth of the Servant Songs of Isaiah, already alluded to in verse 32. The Servant Song begins by saying that the Servant will be lifted up and exalted but that many will be appalled at him because he is disfigured (Is 52:13-14). It is said "many nations and kings will shut their mouths because of him" because they were not prepared for what they saw (Is 52:15). It is at this point that Isaiah says, "Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?" (53:1). In other words, the prophet is saying the message he has been given is very difficult to believe. For "the arm of the Lord" is a metonymy for the strength of God, seen especially in great acts of deliverance such as the exodus (for example, Ex 6:6; 15:16; Deut 4:34; 5:15; cf. Schlier 1964). But now this strength has been revealed in one who is despised, stricken and crushed (Is 53:2-12). Finding God's strength in one who is crushed is such a reversal of normal thinking that those who hear it can only stand mute in disbelief. Thus, the same pattern is repeated in the ministry of Jesus. God's strength, his "arm," has been revealed in ways that defy normal religious sensibilities and has been met with shocked disbelief. The reference to the Servant Song prepares us for the intensification of this shock, which is to come as Jesus repeats the pattern of Isaiah 52:13--53:12 in detail in his Passion.

But for now, John's emphasis is on the unbelief of those who have witnessed the Lord's Servant. John further develops this explanation of unbelief by appealing to another passage in Isaiah: For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere: "He has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn--and I would heal them" (Jn 12:39-40, quoting Is 6:10). John's quote does not follow exactly either the Hebrew or the Greek forms of this passage, and his changes help highlight the significance he sees in this text. First, in both the Hebrew and the Greek of Isaiah, people are affected in their hearts, ears and eyes, in that order. Thus, John leaves out the ears and reverses the order so the eyes are first. In this way he focuses on the signs of Jesus (cf. v. 37) and moves from the outer to the inner, as he has done before (see comment on 8:44). The interior disposition plays a major role, as verse 43 will emphasize. Second, along with this clarification on the human side he also clarifies the divine side. In the Hebrew, Isaiah is commanded to "make the heart of this people fat," and in the Greek it is put in the passive, "the heart of this people has been made thick" (epachynthe). While the Isaiah passage refers to God's action, this passage in John shows more clearly God as the agent of the blinding and "hardening" (eporosen; cf. poros, "stone" or "callus"). Similarly, at the end of the verse the Hebrew has a passive ("and be healed") whereas in John and the Septuagint a future active verb is used for God's action ("I would heal them"). Thus, God's activity is spoken of more directly in John's version of the text.

John says people were not able to believe because God had blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, as revealed by Isaiah. How does God go about blinding and hardening? The clue is in the next verse: Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus' glory and spoke about him (v. 41). More literally, Isaiah said "these things," that is, both quotes from Isaiah are in view. "Isaiah could report on Christ's saying concerning the predestined unbelief of the Jews because he had in his vision [in Isaiah 6] seen the glory of the crucified Son of God" (Dahl 1976:108). Isaiah spoke about him, and thus the verbs that have God as their subject in Isaiah are taken here as referring to Jesus (cf. Carson 1991:450). This would be in keeping with John's earlier statement that no one has ever seen God (1:18), but we have beheld the glory of the only Son (1:14) so that those who have seen the Son have seen the Father (14:9). For the glory of God revealed in Jesus is the self-sacrificing love evident in the Suffering Servant. The scandal of the arm of the Lord revealed in the Suffering Servant corresponds to the scandal of the love of God revealed in Jesus. And as the revelation of the arm of the Lord produced mute disbelief in Isaiah 52:12--53:1, so the glory of the Lord revealed in Jesus has produced disbelief. God's revelation of his glory has caused the blindness and the hardness (cf. Jn 9:39-41). The same sun that melts wax, hardens clay (Origen On First Principles 3.1.11). The hardness of heart found in these opponents is that which rejects God's offer of mercy. Specifically, it is his offer of healing that they reject. This offer of healing, which has blinded and hardened, has come from God through Christ.

After making this blanket statement about unbelief John adds that yet at the same time [homos mentoi, "yet nevertheless," a strong adversative] many even among the leaders believed in him (v. 42). Even among those least likely to be open to the revelation of this strange and disturbing grace of God, some did in fact believe (cf. 1:11-12). But they feared expulsion from the synagogue by the Pharisees and therefore would not confess their faith (v. 42). Consequently, they provide yet another example of false profession of faith that has been described from the outset (2:23-25). As Chrysostom remarks, such fear means that "they were not rulers, but slaves in the utmost slavery" (In John 69.1). "Such ineffective intellectual faith (so to speak) is really the climax of unbelief" (Westcott 1908:2:136).

As with other forms of false faith (cf. 2:25), the problem goes back to the condition of their hearts, for they loved praise from men more than praise from God (v. 43). The word translated praise is the same word translated glory in verse 41. Isaiah saw God's glory and proclaimed it despite its scandalous nature, but these would-be believers prefer human glory for God's glory. The issue is a matter of the heart, for the problem is in their love. They have received the revelation of the Son but are not willing to live in the light of the truth they have seen (cf. 12:47).

Thus, once again both the divine and the human sides of the drama of salvation are addressed (cf. Westcott 1908:2:134-38; Carson 1981; 1991:448-50; Talbert 1992:181). From the outset of the Gospel, John has spoken clearly of both divine sovereignty and human responsibility (1:12-13) without trying to explain rationally how both are true. It is one of the antinomies of this Gospel, which are inevitable in dealing with a revelation of reality that goes beyond our common, limited, four-dimensional perceptions. But these two aspects of reality are not opposed to one another; God's sovereign action is never a violation of our moral responsibility, for such determinism would turn us into robots and preclude love and relationship. "The divine predestination works through human moral choices, for which men are morally responsible" (Barrett 1978:431), as is made clear in the next section (12:47-48). But the human responsibility never violates the necessity of divine grace. "Let no one dare to defend the freedom of the will in any such way as to attempt depriving us of the prayer that says, `Lead us not into temptation'; and, on the other hand, let no one deny the freedom of the will, and so venture to find an excuse for sin. But let us give heed to the Lord, both in commanding and in offering His aid; in both telling us our duty, and assisting us to discharge it" (Augustine In John 53.8).

Salvation is by grace from first to last. To use Pauline terms, we are saved by grace and not works. But we are not saved without works because salvation is a matter of life and relationship, which means it is more than an intellectual assent or an emotional experience. These would-be believers are a prime example of the fact that faith without works is dead, for such faith is only a thought or an emotion and not a relationship of love in a true sense on the level of the heart. At the end of the day what matters is where our love is placed, for where our treasure is, there will our heart be also. And the love of our heart is evident not just from our thoughts and emotions, though these are involved, but from the commitments of our lives.

John's reflection at the end of the first half of his Gospel presents Isaiah's seeing the glory of the rejected graciousness of God offered to Israel by the Son of God. Understood in this way, it is clear how this vision of Isaiah draws together some of the major themes in the first twelve chapters of this Gospel. By focusing on the tragedy of the would-be disciples John also offers a challenge to all who claim to be disciples of Jesus.

44Then Jesus cried out, "When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. 45When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me. 46I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.
47"As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it. 48There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day. 49For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. 50I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say."
John 12:44-50


Jesus Gives a Final Summarizing Pronouncement (12:44-50)

Now that the public ministry is complete and John has reflected on the rejection Jesus has met, a final statement from Jesus is given. It is not located either in place or time (the NIV's then, v. 44, is misleading; the conjunction de is much weaker here). The statement weaves together many major motifs from the first twelve chapters, the main theme being the salvation and judgment that have come through Jesus and that are all grounded in the Father.

Jesus begins by emphasizing his oneness with the Father. Faith is not just in him but in the one who sent him (v. 44). Putting it this way places the emphasis on the Father in such a way as to include the Son, since the Father is described as the one who sent me (cf. Westcott 1908:2:138). Likewise, to see him is to see the one who sent him (v. 45). Here again is the language of agency, drawing on the Jewish notion that an agent is to act in accordance with the intentions of the one who has sent the agent, though Jesus far transcends the category of agent (see note on 5:21). Isaiah was privileged to have seen the Lord in his glory (v. 41), and now it is said that all who have seen Jesus have also seen this glory. Because faith in Jesus is faith in God the cowardice of the would-be believers in the previous section (vv. 42-43) is heinous. This unity between Jesus and the one who sent him grounds this section, as it has the whole Gospel.

Jesus next speaks of the salvation he has brought, using the image of light (v. 46; cf. 1:4-5, 9; 3:19-21; 8:12). He has come into the world as the light. The world is dark precisely because it is alienated from God, who is light. Because Jesus has brought the light of God everyone who believes in him no longer remains in the darkness.

After speaking of the believer Jesus describes two forms of unbelief (Westcott 1908:2:140), described as two responses to his teaching (vv. 47-48). First, there are those who hear his words but do not keep them (v. 47). Such people will listen, but they will not take the teaching into their life and live according to it. The would-be believers in verses 42-43 are one example of such folk. Jesus says he will not judge such a person since he came to save the world, not condemn it (cf. 3:17; 8:15). However, his very presence as the light (v. 46), revealing God, is an exposure and thus condemnation of the darkness. So in fact judgment does take place through him (cf. 5:22, 27; 8:16, 26). "Justification and condemnation are opposite sides of the same process; to refuse the justifying love of God in Christ is to incur judgment" (Barrett 1978:434). Although judgment takes place it is still of the utmost importance to understand that God's intent is salvific. Without this fundamental truth our view of God will go rotten quite quickly.

The second sort of unbeliever is one who out-and-out rejects Jesus by not receiving his teachings (v. 48). To refuse to receive Jesus' word is to reject Jesus himself, just as to refuse to receive the Father's Word, Jesus, is to reject the Father himself. Jesus says, that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day. In other words, the judgment will be on the basis of that which had been made available to the person. "The same word which was to save him judges him" (Schnackenburg 1980b:423). The condemnation begins with the rejection (cf. 3:18) and, if one persists in rejecting him, it will lead to condemnation at the last day.

The condemnation works out in this way "because" (hoti), says Jesus, I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say (vv. 49-50). In other words, the teaching that these unbelievers reject comes from the Father and offers eternal life. Indeed, the text is even more graphic than the NIV suggests, for it says "his command is eternal life" (he entole autou zoe aionios estin, v. 50). The command has to do with a relationship with God himself and a sharing in his life. It is not just a description of a pattern of life and a demand to conform to it. It is a life that expresses the pattern of God's own character. Since Jesus' teachings come from God and offer eternal life, a rejection of these teachings is itself condemnation, for it is a rejection of God and his offer of life.

This final section has emphasized the words of Jesus, just as the previous section had emphasized his deeds (vv. 37-41). What is said about Jesus and his teachings in this final section echoes sections of Deuteronomy regarding the prophet like Moses who was to come (Deut 18:18-19) and the conclusion of Moses' own ministry (cf. Brown 1966:491-93). "When Moses finished reciting all these words to all Israel, he said to them, `Take to heart all the words I have solemnly declared to you this day, so that you may command your children to obey carefully all the words of this law. They are not just idle words for you--they are your life'" (Deut 32:45-47). The theme of Jesus' superiority to Moses thus returns here at the end of the public ministry (cf. 5:46).

The final words of the public ministry emphasize that the foundation for Jesus' statements, and for his whole ministry, is his oneness with the Father. He has not spoken on his own accord, or, more literally, "from myself" (ex emautou, v. 49). Here is the divine humility of the Son (cf. Chrysostom In John 69.2). "In the first part of the gospel, which here closes, Jesus lives in complete obedience to the Father; in the second part he will die in the same obedience"

John 13

Jesus Washes His Disciples' Feet

1It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.[1]
2The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. 3Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
6He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?"
7Jesus replied, "You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand."
8"No," said Peter, "you shall never wash my feet."
Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no part with me."
9"Then, Lord," Simon Peter replied, "not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!"
10Jesus answered, "A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you." 11For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.
12When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. "Do you understand what I have done for you?" he asked them. 13"You call me 'Teacher' and 'Lord,' and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. 15I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

Jesus Predicts His Betrayal

18"I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill the scripture: 'He who shares my bread has lifted up his heel against me.'[2]
19"I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am He. 20I tell you the truth, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me."

John 13:1-20


Jesus Washes His Disciples' Feet (13:1-20)

The opening verse of chapter 13 sets the scene for the whole of chapters 13--17. Love is one of the key terms in chapters 13--17, occurring thirty-one times in these five chapters as compared to only six times in chapters 1--12. Jesus now shows his disciples the full extent [eis telos] of his love. Full extent could also be translated to the last (cf. NIV note). The ambiguity is probably intentional, for the two meanings are related. Love is the laying down of one's life, and therefore to love completely means to love to the end of one's life (cf. 1 Jn 3:16). The love that has been evident throughout continues right up to the end. At the end, in the crucifixion, we will see the ultimate revelation of that love, that is, its full extent.

This is now the third or fourth Passover mentioned (2:13; 6:4; perhaps 5:1). The shadow of the cross has been evident from the very outset through the references to Jesus' hour (hora). Jesus now knows that his hour has arrived (translated time in the NIV). John emphasizes the context of the Passover, for the lamb is about to be sacrificed for the sins of the world (1:29). That is part of the story, but it is also the occasion for Jesus to pass over (metabe; NIV, leave) from this world to the Father. This theme of departure and return to the Father will be developed at length in the teachings that follow.

While this first verse introduces the whole section through chapter 17, it also introduces the account of the footwashing in particular. For the love that is evident in the laying down of life at the crucifixion is also demonstrated in the laying down of life in humble service in the footwashing. In the footwashing we have "an acted parable of the Lord's humiliation unto death" (Beasley-Murray 1975:154; cf. D. Wenham 1995:15).

The next three verses (13:2-4) introduce the footwashing itself. Jesus got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist (v. 4). The verb used for took off (tithemi) is not the usual word for this idea (apotithemi). Perhaps John intends an allusion to Jesus' imminent laying down of life, since this verb is used for that idea elsewhere (10:11, 15, 17-18; 13:37-38). Similarly, the word used for taking up his garments (lambano, v. 12) was used to describe his taking up his life again (10:17-18, cf. Brown 1970: 551). So perhaps through the language he uses, John is connecting these two events of great humility.

John notes that the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus (v. 2). This is the first of several references in this section to the betrayal (vv. 11, 18-20), which will be the focus of the next section (vv. 21-30). It is extremely important to realize that Jesus is going to wash the feet of one who is considering betraying him. Judas has not yet given in to the temptation (cf. v. 27), but the devil has prompted him, or more literally, "put it into his heart." This is the first step in a sequence that temptation follows, according to the teachers of the ancient church (Nikodimos and Makarios 1979:364-66). This is known as "provocation," the initial idea. It is wise to reject the thought at this point because the temptation is at its weakest and one is not yet guilty of sin. If this salesman is at the door, it is best to ignore the knocking.

Jesus' own awareness is also an important part of the context of the footwashing. He knew that the Father had put all things under his power (literally, "into his hands") and that he had come from God and was returning to God (v. 3). Here in Johannine language is the description of Jesus' identity in his relation to the Father. This knowledge does not simply give Jesus the security to wash the disciples feet--his sharing in the divine essence is what leads him to wash their feet. Jesus said that he only does what he sees the Father doing (5:19), and this footwashing is not said to be an exception to that rule. John's introduction to the event ensures that we understand God's glory is revealed in Jesus in this sign. This is what God himself is like--he washes feet, even the feet of the one who will betray him! Thus, the footwashing is a true sign in the Johannine sense, for it is a revelation of God.

Having taken off his outer garment (himation), Jesus was left with his tunic (chiton), a shorter garment like a long undershirt. Slaves would be so dressed to serve a meal (cf. Lk 12:37; 17:8). Jesus tied a linen cloth around his waist with which to dry their feet, obviously not what one would expect a master to do. A Jewish text says this is something a Gentile slave could be required to do, but not a Jewish slave (Mekilta on Ex 21:2, citing Lev 25:39, 46). On the other hand, footwashing is something wives did for their husbands, children for their parents, and disciples for their teachers (b. Berakot 7b; cf. Barrett 1978:440). A level of intimacy is involved in these cases, unlike when Gentile slaves would do the washing. In Jesus' case, there is an obvious reversal of roles with his disciples. The one into whose hands the Father had given all (13:3) now takes his disciples' feet into his hands to wash them (cf. Augustine In John 55.6).

Slaves were looked down upon in the ancient world (cf. Rengstorf 1964b), and Peter cannot stand the thought of his teacher doing the work of a slave (13:6). It would have been appropriate for one of the disciples to have washed Jesus' feet, but the reverse is intolerable. In the Greek both pronouns, you and my, are emphatic. This response expresses Peter's love (cf. Chrysostom In John 70.2), but his is a defective love. It lacks humility, which is one of the essential attributes of discipleship according to this Gospel. Indeed, humility is the very thing illustrated in Jesus' present action. In Peter's response we see the pride and self-will that is at the heart of all sin and that is the very thing for which the cross will atone and bring healing. Peter is working from a worldly point of view, and not for the first time (cf. Mt 16:22 par. Mk 8:32).

Jesus realizes this act is scandalous and mystifying, given their current ignorance: You do not realize now what I am doing, but later (literally, "after these things") you will understand (v. 7). On one level, Jesus' act is an example of humility, and they are expected to grasp this point (vv. 12-20). But as with most of what Jesus has said and done, they will fully understand this event only after the cross and resurrection and the coming of the Spirit, who will lead them into all truth (cf. 2:22; 12:16; 13:19, 29; 16:4, 13, 25).

In response to Peter's rejection (v. 8) Jesus says cryptically, Unless I wash you, you have no part with me (v. 8). The word for part (meros) can be used of one's share in an inheritance (cf. Lk 15:12), though other words are more commonly used for this idea (meris, kleros and kleronomia). If Peter is to have a share with Jesus in his community and the eternal life that comes through faith in him, then he must be washed by Jesus. Since this is Peter's greatest desire he responds, Then, Lord, . . . not just my feet but my hands and my head as well! Again we see his love, but again there is still a strong element of self. He is not simply receiving with humility what the Lord is saying and doing. Peter at this point is an example of religious enthusiasm that is really a manifestation of the unregenerate self rather than of genuine discipleship. He has not discovered the depths of his own brokenness and selfishness and thus does not have a solid foundation in reality to build on. His denial of Jesus, soon to be predicted by Jesus (vv. 31-38), will tear down his pride and clear the way for the genuine humility that is necessary for any real spiritual life (see comments on 21:15-19).

So Jesus must further correct Peter and thereby give more insight into his scandalous act: A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you (v. 10). People would bathe before going to a special meal, but their feet would get dirty on the way since they wore sandals. Here, as in verse 8, Jesus is addressing Peter as an individual, but by implication he is also addressing each of the disciples. Jesus must wash him, or else he is not clean and has no share with him. What does this washing refer to? Some think it is a reference to his death, which will make possible a sharing in eternal life with Christ. The footwashing would then be a symbol of the cross (cf. Brown 1970:566). Others think that the bathing (v. 10) is the cleansing from sin on the cross and that the footwashing would refer to the forgiveness of one's daily sins (Carson 1991:465; Talbert 1992:192). Many, both in the ancient church (cf. Brown 1970:566-67) and today (for example, Oepke 1967a:305-6), note that the word wash (louo) is from a word family commonly associated with baptism (Acts 22:16; 1 Cor 6:11; Eph 5:26; Tit 3:5; Heb 10:22) and thus take this washing as baptism.

But how can these disciples be said to be clean when the sacrifice for sin has not yet been offered and the Spirit has not yet been given (Chrysostom In John 70.2)? Perhaps Jesus is speaking as if the crucifixion and resurrection have already been accomplished (see comment on v. 31). Or perhaps Jesus is referring to being made clean by his word (cf. 15:3). Such cleansing would refer to their receiving the light of revelation that Jesus has offered, accepting him and his teaching as having come from God (cf. 17:6-8) and thereby becoming one with him to the extent that this is possible before the cross, resurrection, ascension and coming of the Spirit. They are "with him" (cf. v. 8) as members of his community, though Peter's attitude in this very passage shows they are not yet fully of Jesus' spirit. The footwashing would then symbolize further teaching. Indeed, the footwashing would itself convey something of the further teaching of which it was the symbol: they have received him as the one come from God, and now he reveals more clearly the love that characterizes the Father.

Although Jesus is speaking to Peter he is also speaking to the disciples as a group. They have formed a community with him as their head. It is as if, as Paul spells out, they are his body and his own body needs to have its feet washed. He has cleansed his body of disciples through his teaching and deeds that have attracted some and scandalized others (cf. Michaels 1989:239). But his body is not yet entirely clean (v. 10): For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean (or "not all are clean"; v. 11). Judas was unclean himself in the sense that he has not received Jesus with true faith, and he is himself an unclean presence among the body of believers that has yet to be cleansed. Judas's cleansing from the body of believers is about to take place.

Jesus' reference to his betrayal is an act of judgment toward Judas, who must know he is the one referred to since the thoughts are already in his mind (v. 2). As such it is also an act of grace. It reveals clearly the nature of the deed he is contemplating, thereby perhaps giving him a chance to think again.

After Jesus finishes washing their feet, he puts his outer garment back on and returns to his place, asking, Do you understand what I have done for you? (v. 12). They will not completely understand until they have seen the cross (v. 7), but they can at least grasp his act as an example of humility. The cleansing word that they have received includes the recognition of Jesus as Teacher and Lord (v. 13). Jesus affirms that this is indeed his identity. The humility he is exemplifying is not a false humility. True humility is always grounded in the truth. But although they have grasped something of Jesus' identity, they now need the further cleansing that comes through a revelation of the nature of Jesus, whose authority they recognize. Jesus' understanding of the characteristics of a teacher and a lord (or the Lord) are quite different from those of the disciples and their culture.

While they are reeling from this embarrassing event, Jesus spells out the implications for their own lives of what he has done: Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you (vv. 14-15). What does Jesus have in mind? Some have established a footwashing ceremony, either as a separate service or as part of the Maundy Thursday service. Jesus, however, does not say to do "what" he did but "as" he did. The cleansing and the further footwashing are symbolic of the revelation that Jesus gave of the Father, and thus the disciples are called upon to embody this same revelation. The disciples are to pass on the same teaching that he, their teacher and Lord, has done by conveying as he has, both in word and deed, the selfless love of God (cf. Barrett 1978:443; Michaels 1989:241-42). The community Jesus has brought into being is to manifest the love of God that he has revealed through serving one another with no vestige of pride or position. There will be recognized positions of leadership within the new community, but the exercize of leadership is to follow this model of servanthood.

If Jesus takes the role of servant (doulos, better translated "slave"), then the slave of such a master should expect to do the same (v. 16). Jesus adds nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him, bringing in the theme of mission (cf. Michaels 1989:243-44). Jesus is the one sent by the Father, and the disciples will be sent by Jesus. Jesus has been submissive to the Father, and the disciples are to be under the authority of Jesus. The pattern of life exemplified in the footwashing is true blessedness, contrary to what the world, which is centered in pride and selfishness, thinks. Accordingly, he says, Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them (v. 17). The Gospel is a life to be lived and not just an ideal to be contemplated.

Jesus then makes another allusion to his betrayer: I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen (v. 18). Some think Jesus is referring to the election to eternal life (Calvin 1959:61-62), but he is referring to his historical choice of the Twelve (cf. Barrett 1978:444). John shows us that the betrayal need not raise doubts about Jesus' identity for he knows the character of each one. The betrayal is not going to catch him by surprise. Indeed, it has been spoken of in Scripture: But this is to fulfill the scripture: "He who shares my bread has lifted up his heel against me" (v. 18, quoting Ps 41:9). As with most fulfillment texts, this is not an explicit prophecy that has now been fulfilled; rather we have a pattern from the Old Testament now repeated. The figure of David as the sufferer in Psalm 41 is seen as a pattern, or type, of Jesus (cf. Carson 1991:470). The psalm describes betrayal by a close friend. Lifting up the foot to expose the sole is an especially offensive gesture even today in the Middle East. Not only does the betrayal by Judas not cast doubts on Jesus' identity, it actually affirms that he is a fulfillment of the Davidic type.

The betrayal itself does not begin until verse 27, so the psalm is given by Jesus as a prophecy (v. 19). Jesus' foreknowledge of the event is emphasized (cf. 14:28, 31) and is even evidence of his divinity, that he is the I AM (ego eimi; I am He, v. 19). The common Old Testament idea that God and his true prophets are known by their ability to foretell events (for example, Is 48:5) is seen to be true of Jesus. He continues to give the word that cleanses his disciples by revealing himself to be the revealer of God. Thus the betrayal story itself bears witness to Jesus in three ways, namely, through his preternatural knowledge of his disciples, through the witness of Scripture and through his own prediction.

After his use of the divine name in reference to himself, his return to the theme of mission is striking: I tell you the truth, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me (v. 20). To accept the messenger is to accept the sender, following the principle that "a man's agent is like to himself" (m. Berakot 5:5; see note on 5:21). Jesus gives his own mission and that of his followers "an absolute theological significance; in both the world is confronted by God himself" (Barrett 1978:445). Seen in the context of the footwashing, this statement of the dignity of the Christian witnesses is not an expression of power and authority in any worldly sense. The one who represents Christ by bearing the same self-sacrificing love of God will meet with the same response Jesus met (cf. 15:18--16:4) but will also be the agent of the same eternal life that comes through knowledge of the Father in the Son by the Spirit. Each disciple should walk through his or her day with a consciousness of being on such a mission, which is only made possible through the closest intimacy with Jesus (15:1-17).

In the story of the footwashing, then, we have the most profound revelation of the heart of God apart from the crucifixion itself. We also learn more of the relation between Jesus and his disciples, the relation of the disciples with one another in humble service and the mission of the disciples to the world. These themes are similar to those of the Eucharist developed earlier (see comments on 6:52-59). The community that Jesus has been forming here takes more definite shape, revealing more clearly "the law of its being" (Bultmann 1971:479), which is humble, self-sacrificing love.

21After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, "I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me."
22His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. 23One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. 24Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, "Ask him which one he means."
25Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, "Lord, who is it?"
26Jesus answered, "It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish." Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, son of Simon. 27As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him.
28"What you are about to do, do quickly," Jesus told him, but no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. 29Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the Feast, or to give something to the poor. 30As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night.
John 13:21-30


Jesus Predicts His Betrayal (13:21-30)

The betrayal is all the more horrendous coming after the footwashing in which the depth of Jesus' divine love is revealed. Once again we see Jesus deeply agitated as he bears witness: I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me (v. 21). He has been agitated with anger at death (11:33) and in anguish over his own coming death, which will mean separation from his Father for the first time (12:27). In both cases love causes the disturbance--the love for his friends at Lazarus's tomb and the love for his Father. Here also his anguish is caused by great love--the love he has for his disciples, including his betrayer. In his anguish we see revealed the effects of our sin on the heart of God, from the first rebellion in the Garden right up to the most recent sin you and I have committed today. All sin is a rejection of God's great love.

The disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant (v. 22). They did not all swing around and look at Judas. They could not imagine who would do such a thing. Indeed, according to other accounts each of them asked, "Is it I, Lord?" (RSV, Mt 26:22 par. Mk 14:19). We are all quite capable of the worst sin. If we think otherwise, we are deluded and have no real idea how much we owe to the grace of God.

With such a statement hanging in the air, everyone wondering to whom he could be referring, we can imagine Peter bursting to ask Jesus. But he has just been rebuked at the footwashing so instead of speaking up he motions (literally, "nods," neuei) to one of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved (vv. 23-24; cf. Chrysostom In John 72.1). This person is said to be reclining next to Jesus (v. 23; more literally, "on/at his breast/bosom," en to kolpo). Three couches or mats are arranged in a U shape around a table. The men are reclining on their left arms with their right hands free to get at the food. Most likely there are three at the head couch and five at each of the side couches. Jesus is at the center of the head couch, the place of honor. The second most honorable position is to the back of the place of honor, that is, to Jesus' left when looking from behind them. The third place of honor is in front of Jesus, that is, to his right (t. Berakot 5:5). The one to whom Peter nods is in this third place of honor, for he leans back against Jesus to ask him, Lord, who is it? (v. 25). Since Peter is able to catch his eye, presumably Peter is along the couch on the right at some distance. Since the ranking alternated from left to right, Peter's place would have been in the second half of the disciples, perhaps even at the very end. This reconstruction is somewhat uncertain, however, not least because of the unconventional views Jesus had about rank (cf. Mt 20:26 par. Mk 10:43 par. Lk 22:26; Mt 23:11; Mk 9:35; Lk 9:48), exemplified par excellence in the present story of the footwashing.

Jesus says, It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish (v. 26). Since Jesus is able to give the bread to his betrayer it is likely that Judas was in the second place of honor. This would also fit with the custom of the host's giving food in this way to one he wishes to honor (Westcott 1908:2:156; Brown 1970:578; Talbert 1992:195-96). In the face of such honor and intimacy we see the heinousness of Judas' deed (cf. Ps 55:12-14). Jesus is pouring out his love and grace upon Judas. He is trying to win Judas over, but to no avail (Chrysostom In John 72.2). Early in the Gospel Jesus healed one who turned around and betrayed him, a Judas figure (5:1-16). That healing was the climax of a series of revelations of the divine grace, which then triggered the conflict. The conflict itself is now coming to its climax, and we are seeing brighter and brighter revelations of the divine grace, first in the footwashing and now in Jesus' treatment of his betrayer. All of this is leading up to the grand climax of glory in the cross.

Presumably, this exchange is spoken quietly (Beasley-Murray 1987:238). Peter is too far away to hear what was said, so only this disciple to Jesus' right knows the identity of the betrayer. This is the first we hear of the Beloved Disciple in this Gospel. He is referred to several times in the coming account of the Passion and the postresurrection appearances of Jesus (19:26-27, 35; 20:2-10; 21:7, 20-23; probably 18:15-16), and it is his testimony that is represented in this Gospel (21:24). In the present story we see him as Jesus' confidant, one who is said to be en to kolpo to Jesus, the very description of Jesus' own relation to the Father--"at the Father's side" (1:18)--suggesting "the Disciple is as intimate with Jesus as Jesus is with the Father" (Brown 1970:577). This intimacy is borne out in the special knowledge this disciple has. "As Jesus' most intimate disciple and eye-witness he is allowed to know by whom Jesus will be betrayed (13:13-21) and to understand the meaning of the empty tomb (20:2-10). He witnesses Jesus' suffering and death and because he saw blood and water coming out of Jesus' side he is able to state beyond doubt that Jesus died a real death" (de Jonge 1979:104). His insight regarding Jesus' death and resurrection means, in Johannine language, that he understands Jesus' glorification through which the Father is revealed. He also has insight concerning the betrayer, which is to say, Jesus' enemies. Thus, his special knowledge enables him to present both the positive and the negative sides of the case: he can both testify to the truth and identify the error. In this way he shares in the Holy Spirit's functions of bearing witness to Jesus and judging the world (14:16, 26;15:26; 16:7-11). In writing this Gospel this disciple is himself the prime example of the Spirit's leading into all truth, teaching all things and bringing to remembrance what Jesus said.

The very anonymity of the Beloved Disciple may be a reflection of his humility, though we should not assume that John is carefully calculating to produce such effects. If he is calling himself the Beloved Disciple perhaps it is because he is the beloved disciple, the one whose heart, whose inward disposition, is particularly open and sensitive to Jesus. John presents himself in a way that actually has certain similarities to his Master because he is humble. John has no false humility; he exalts in what he has heard, seen and touched, and he knows his place of authority. But in his humility he keeps pointing to Jesus in the same way Jesus keeps pointing to the Father.

When Judas receives the bread he seals his fate: As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him (v. 27). Earlier Satan had put the idea of betraying Jesus into Judas' heart and mind (13:2). Indeed, the Synoptics tell us that Judas had already gone to the chief priests to plan the betrayal (Mt 26:14-16 par. Mk 14:10-11 par. Lk 22:3-6). But now we have the point of decision. Just as faith is a progressive sequence, so acceptance of the devil's will also follows a sequence (cf. Nikodimos and Makarios 1979:364-66). "His acceptance of the morsel without changing his wicked plan to betray Jesus means that he has chosen for Satan rather than for Jesus" (Brown 1970:578). Satan has found in Judas a willing agent (cf. 8:44), who serves as a counterexample to Jesus, the willing agent of his Father.

The contest now begins in earnest. There is no doubt as to the outcome, for Satan and his agent are under Jesus' command: What you are about to do, do quickly (v. 27). Jesus is not commanding Judas to sin but rather commanding him to get on with what he is going to do, one way or the other. "No man in all history was more truly `put on the spot' than Judas in that moment" (Beasley-Murray 1987:238). It is very ironic that this gesture of friendship--the sharing of bread--is the point of decision to betray, an irony matched only by the use of a kiss to accomplish the betrayal itself (not mentioned by John; cf. Mt 26:49 par. Mk 14:45 par. Lk 22:47-48).

The disciples could not imagine which of them would betray Jesus (v. 22), and they are ignorant of why Jesus is telling Judas to act quickly. No one (v. 28), not even the Beloved Disciple, knew the betrayal was upon them even then. It is one thing to know who is going to betray Jesus; it is another to know how and when it will take place. They figured Jesus must be telling him to buy what was needed for the Feast, or to give something to the poor (v. 29). There is debate over whether they are eating the Passover meal or not (see comment on 18:28). If they are eating the Passover meal, the feast referred to would be the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which began that night and lasted for seven days. While purchases on the evening of Passover were not impossible, they would not be possible for the next two days of the high feast and the sabbath, which, some of the disciples thought, explained the urgency (Jeremias 1966a:53; cf. Carson 1991:475). The setting of Passover might also give rise to the disciples' other explanation that Jesus has sent Judas to give alms, since this was a custom on the eve of Passover (Jeremias 1966a:54). If Jesus is not referring to the Feast of Unleavened Bread, then he is referring to the Passover itself, which means the meal they are now sharing occurs just before Passover.

Again we see that the disciples have no special suspicion of Judas. Indeed, they think he is being sent forth on an errand for Jesus and his band. That is, they think Judas is acting as a servant, as Jesus has just modeled. There is great irony in their thinking that he has gone on an errand of service or piety (cf. Michaels 1989:252). He is indeed going to buy what is needed for the feast--the Lamb of God who will take away the sin of the world. Instead of giving to the poor he is selling the archetypal Poor Man, though in doing so he provides eternal wealth to the poor, all of us made beggars by sin.

At the beginning of the footwashing John notes that the hour for which we have been waiting since the beginning of the Gospel has now arrived (13:1). At the end of this section we reach another benchmark: now comes the night (v. 30) in which people do not know where they are going (12:35-36). It is time for the ultimate contest between light and darkness.

Jesus Predicts Peter's Denial

31When he was gone, Jesus said, "Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in him. 32If God is glorified in him,[3] God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.
33"My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.
34"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
John 13:31-35


Jesus Introduces Major Themes of His Farewell Discourse (13:31-35)

Jesus now begins what is commonly called his "farewell discourse" (13:31--17:26). This section follows a literary form common in the ancient world, not least within Judaism (Brown 1970:598; Talbert 1992:200). There are numerous examples of a great man or woman giving a final speech to those who are close to him or her: for example, Jacob (Gen 47:29--49:33), Moses (Deut; Josephus Antiquities of the Jews 4.309-26), Joshua (Josh 23--24), Samuel (1 Sam 12), David (1 Chron 28--29), Tobit (Tobit 14:3-11), Noah (Jubilees 10), Abraham (Jubilees 20--22), Rebecca (Jubilees 35), Isaac (Jubilees 36), Enoch (1 Enoch 91), Ezra (2 Esdras 14:28-36), Baruch (2 Apocalypse of Baruch 77) and the twelve sons of Jacob (Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs). These accounts, though diverse, have several common elements (Brown 1970:598-601; Talbert 1992:200-202). The great man or woman tells of his or her impending death and in some cases offers comfort in the face of the grief this announcement produces. He or she predicts what will come in the future, including, in different cases, evil or God's care. This is in keeping with the belief that one about to die is given prophetic powers (cf. Josephus Jewish Wars 7.353; Plato Apology 39C; cf. Talbert 1992:200-201). These farewell discourses also contain instruction on how those left behind should behave, and at times the discourses conclude with a prayer for those left behind.

Although Jesus' farewell discourse fits this pattern, there is the notable exception that the one who is about to leave will continue to be present through the Spirit and will return at the end of the age (cf. Brown 1970:582; Carson 1991:480). Indeed, the way Jesus speaks in this section transcends time, for he speaks in oracular style and often as if the glorification has already taken place. "He is really speaking from heaven; although those who hear him are his disciples, his words are directed to Christians of all times" (Brown 1970:582).

The keynote of these chapters is assurance and comfort in the face of two difficulties coming upon the disciples, Jesus' death and their own persecution. He prepares them for his death and the coming of the Spirit, now called the Paraclete. He speaks of the opposition between the world and them as his disciples, and he prepares them for hardships to come (cf. Tolmie 1995:228-29). He does this by showing them that this opposition comes from their union with himself.

In the course of offering assurance and comfort, Jesus develops various themes that have been introduced earlier in his ministry, including in particular glory, mutual indwelling and love. His main point is the experience of life in God the disciples have and will continue to have. The relation between the Father and the Son, which has been revealed in the first twelve chapters, is now "declared to be realized in the disciples" (Dodd 1953:397). The relations between the Father, the Son and the Spirit are described in more detail here than anywhere else in the Bible. In these chapters, therefore, is the most profound teaching on God and discipleship in the Bible--the life of believers described in relation to the persons of the Godhead.

The teaching in these chapters is expressed in typical Johannine terms, distinct from the language in the Synoptic Gospels. Yet many of the specific topics included here reflect those discussed in the Synoptics at various points. C. H. Dodd has summarized these as (1) precepts, warnings and promises for the disciples, (2) predictions of the death and resurrection of Jesus and (3) eschatological predictions (1953:390-91). Two items found in the Synoptics, however, are missing from these themes in John, namely, the discussion of signs of the end and detailed ethical instructions (Dodd 1953:391). Instead of rehearsing Jesus' predictions of the end, John concentrates on the coming of the Paraclete. This is part of his emphasis on realized eschatology, the notion that, although there will be a future return of the Lord, already he is present through his Spirit. Likewise, instead of giving Jesus' ethical instructions, John focuses on their substance, which is the love command. Thus, John is touching on some of the themes found in the Synoptics, but he emphasizes different aspects. The same is true for this Gospel's more obvious difference from the Synoptics--the omission of the institution of the Eucharist. The account of the footwashing along with the teaching in chapter 6 provide profound reflections on the significance of the Eucharist without ever describing the institution itself.

In these chapters there is much repetition and an interweaving of themes, which is a characteristic of Hellenistic style. "We shall not repeat the same thing precisely--for that, to be sure, would weary the hearer and not elaborate the idea--but with changes" (Rhetorica ad Herennium 4.42.54, an anonymous treatise from c. 86-82 B.C.; cf. Talbert 1992:202). Instead of simply discussing a particular idea in a linear-sequential fashion, the thought is developed in a more poetic way through repetition. Accordingly, the section can be outlined in a number of ways, though three main parts are fairly clear. The first part (13:31--14:31) focuses on Jesus' departure and discusses the disciples' relation to Jesus and their conflict with the world. The second part (15:1--16:33) develops these same themes, moving from the relationship of Jesus to the disciples, using the figure of the vine and the branches (15:1-17), to the conflict between the disciples and the world (15:18--16:15), and on to a promise to the disciples of joy in the future after the sorrow of this time of separation (16:16-33). In the third major part Jesus prays to his Father (17:1-26). Throughout, the overall theme is the Father's presence with the disciples and the Son's and Spirit's roles in mediating his presence.

The first major section of the farewell discourse (13:31--14:31) is characterized by a series of questions by various disciples and Jesus' responses. An initial statement by Jesus gets the sequence started: he speaks of glorification (vv. 31-32), his departure (v. 33) and love (vv. 34-35). These themes are developed in the rest of the farewell discourse in reverse order, thereby forming a chiastic structure, moving from love (15:1--16:4a), to departure (16:4b-33), to glorification (17:1-26; cf. Westcott 1908:2:159; Michaels 1989:253). While there are other important themes in these chapters as well and all the themes are quite interwoven, generally speaking these five verses contain the major themes of the entire farewell discourse.

Judas' departure, like the coming of the Greeks (12:20-23), signals to Jesus that a new stage of the glorification has been reached. The betrayal has begun, and so now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in him (13:31). Glorification can refer to either the giving of praise or the manifestation of that which is worthy of praise. When Jesus says now he is referring to the manifestation of God now taking place rather than the praise it will bring forth in the future.

What is this manifestation? In general the glory of God refers to his "own essential worth, greatness, power, majesty, everything in him which calls forth man's adoring reverence" (Caird 1969:269). This glory has been manifested throughout Jesus' ministry, but now it comes to a climax on the cross (cf. 12:23-33). For the chief characteristic of God revealed in Jesus is his love, a self-sacrificial love. Thus, God is glorified in him through his death, "for in the cross of Christ, as in a splendid theatre, the incomparable goodness of God is set before the whole world" (Calvin 1959:68).

The Son of Man is the one to be glorified (v. 31), that is, the Messiah from heaven who brings God's life and judgment, especially through the cross (see comments on 3:13-14 and 5:27). The cross is itself the revelation of divine glory and the way for Jesus to share the divine life with his followers. It is also the way for God to glorify the Son in himself (v. 32), which he will do at once as Jesus returns to his presence (17:5). Just as Jesus' keynote address focused on the relation between the Father and the Son (5:19-27), so also his farewell discourse begins from that same fundamental point. This relationship is central to this Gospel.

Jesus next addresses the immediate impact of the cross on the disciples: My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come (v. 33). By calling them children (using the diminutive form teknia, "little children," which the NIV tries to capture by adding my) he is putting them in a relation to himself that is analogous to his relation to the Father (cf. 14:20; 17:21, 23; cf. Westcott 1908:2:161). This term would be in keeping with the Passover meal setting since "small groups that banded together to eat the paschal meal had to pattern themselves on family life, and one of the group had to act as a father explaining to his children the significance of what was being done" (Brown 1970:611).

This term of endearment expresses his love for them and is a poignant introduction to his announcement that his departure is imminent. The term a little longer (eti mikron) is imprecise (cf. 7:33), so they could not be sure how soon this separation would take place, but given the announcement of the betrayal they might suspect that it would be very soon. Jesus seems to refer not just to the time of separation between his death and resurrection, but also to the time thereafter. For he says they will look for him, which they did not do after his death, but which they did do after the resurrection. Just as the first disciples sought him out (1:38), so will they continue to seek for him after his departure. Part of the purpose of the farewell discourse is to tell them of the new ways in which they will find him in the future.

The departure had been a theme in the controversy with the Jewish opponents (7:34; 8:21), as Jesus reminds the disciples. While it is impossible for either group to follow Jesus where he is going, there is a big difference between the groups' relationships to Jesus. For the opponents are alienated from God and can never follow Jesus into the Father's presence as long as they remain in that condition. The disciples, on the other hand, have been cleansed (v. 10). They are little children who will indeed follow Jesus later (v. 36). As the following chapters will make clear, they first need to receive the Spirit, the Paraclete, to share in the Father's life and love and to accomplish his works, as Jesus himself has done.

The crux of this new quality of life with God is found in the love command: A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another (vv. 34-35). On one level, there is nothing new about the command to love. While there are different understandings of love, the love command, or ideal, is already known widely in Judaism (for example, Lev 19:18; Rule of the Community 3.13; m. 'Abot 1:12) and the Greco-Roman world (for example, Pliny Natural History 2.17.18; Marcus Aurelius Meditations 7.13, 22; Porphery To Mark 35; cf. Klassen 1992:382-84). But on another level, this love is new in that it is in keeping with Jesus' own love for them. The love of God has now been mediated in a radically new way, through the incarnation. And the possibility of sharing in that divine love now becomes possible in a manner and to a degree unlike anything up to this point. The disciples are called to enter into the relation of love that exists between the Father and the Son (10:18; 12:49-50; 14:31; 15:10; cf. Barrett 1978:452). This love also is not new; it has existed from all eternity. But it has not been manifested or made available until the incarnation. Such love is the fruit of the disciples' union with Jesus and, in Jesus, with the Father (cf. chap. 15). The disciple, therefore, is one who is characterized by love, which is the laying down of life. The disciple, like the Master, reveals the Father.

This love command focuses on relations within the new community rather than toward outsiders, a focus that has led many to view John as a narrow sectarian with no concern for outsiders. Such a view, however, misses the larger picture. John is quite clear that this divine love, in which the disciples are to share, is for the whole world (3:16; 4:42; 17:9). Indeed, their love for one another is part of God's missionary strategy, for such love is an essential part of the unity they are to share with one another and with God; it is by this oneness of the disciples in the Father and the Son that the world will believe that the Father sent the Son (17:21). Jesus' attention here in the farewell discourse, as well as John's attention in his epistles, is on the crucial stage of promoting the love between disciples. The community is to continue to manifest God as Jesus has done, thereby shining as a light that continues to bring salvation and condemnation (cf. chaps. 15--16). Without this love their message of what God has done in Christ would be hollow.

John was known in the ancient church for his concern for love. Jerome tells of John in his extreme old age saying, whenever he was carried into the assembly, "Little children, love one another."

When his disciples got tired of this, they asked, "Master, why do you always say this?"

"It is the Lord's command. If this alone be done, it is enough" (Jerome Commentary on Galatians at Gal 6:10).

The story of John and the conversion, fall and restoration of a brigand (Clement of Alexandria Who Is the Rich Man That Shall Be Saved? 42 par. Eusebius Ecclesiastical History 3.23.5-19) is another beautiful story that illustrates the love revealed in this Gospel. For when John finds this fallen Christian he entreats him to repent, saying, "If it must be, I will willingly suffer your death, as the Lord suffered for us; for your life, I will give my own."

In the earliest centuries of the church divine love was indeed the hallmark of the community of Jesus (for example Ignatius of Antioch Letter to the Ephesians 4.1; Justin Martyr 1 Apology 1.16; Minucius Felix Octavius 9). Tertullian reports that the pagans said of the Christians, "See, they say, how they love one another . . . how they are ready even to die for one another" (Apology 39). E. R. Dodds (not to be confused with C. H. Dodd), himself not a Christian (Dodds 1965:5), thinks that the genuine love and unity among Christians was "a major cause, perhaps the strongest single cause, of the spread of Christianity" (Dodds 1965:138). "Love of one's neighbour is not an exclusively Christian virtue, but in our period [from the second century A.D. to Constantine, early in the third century] the Christians appear to have practised it much more effectively than any other group" (Dodds 1965:136-37).

Such cohesiveness is part of what made Christianity attractive to Constantine, for he saw that it would help unify the empire. Before Constantine, when one became a Christian there was no question but that a death to self was involved in being a Christian. But this changed after Constantine, and so it is not surprising to find Chrysostom, preaching in the fourth and early fifth century, chastising his congregation for their lack of love. In contrast to the earlier age, he now must say, "There is nothing else that causes the Greeks [that is, the non-Christians] to stumble, except that there is no love. . . . We, we are the cause of their remaining in their error. Their own doctrines they have long condemned, and in like manner they admire ours, but they are hindered by our mode of life" (In John 72.5). In parts of the world today the church continues to be the greatest obstacle to people's coming to believe that the Son has come into the world, sent from the Father.

The love that Jesus is speaking of is not simply a feeling. One cannot really command a feeling. It is willing and doing the best for the other person (1 Jn 3:11-18). Since God's will alone is that which is truly good in any situation, love acts in obedience to God's will, under the guidance of the Spirit. Jesus has revealed such a life--only doing what he sees the Father doing and only speaking what he hears from the Father. The same pattern is to be true of the disciple, because "whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did" (1 Jn 2:6). Feelings of compassion and concern will be present as the disciple more and more perfectly shares in God's own love for those around him or her, but such feelings are not the source nor the evidence for this love that Jesus demands of his followers (cf. 15:1-17).

36Simon Peter asked him, "Lord, where are you going?"
Jesus replied, "Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later."
37Peter asked, "Lord, why can't I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you."
38Then Jesus answered, "Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!

John 14

Jesus Comforts His Disciples

1"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God[1] ; trust also in me. 2In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4You know the way to the place where I am going."

John 13:36-14:4


Jesus Predicts Peter's Denial and Speaks of His Own Departure (13:36-14:4)

Having heard all the profound things that Jesus has just said, Peter zeros in on that which is clearest and most disturbing, Jesus' coming departure. He asks Jesus, Where are you going (v. 36), presumably so he will be able to follow him. Jesus will answer Peter's question, but first he focuses on a point he has already made, namely, Peter's inability to follow him. This inability is due in part to Peter's own unreadiness, as his coming denial exhibits. But Peter is also unable because the way has not yet been opened through the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Jesus encourages Peter by saying that this inability is temporary and that he will follow later. This promise will be fulfilled after Peter's death, but it will also be fulfilled after the resurrection of Jesus and the coming of the Spirit (for example, 12:26; 14:23; 17:24), as will be developed in the next section.

Peter continues to protest, wanting to know why he cannot follow now (v. 37). As he did at the footwashing, Peter again evidences his love for Jesus along with his lack of humility in accepting Jesus' word. His response comes more from his own self will than from true discipleship that acts in accordance with the will of the Father. Thus, it is an imperfect love. Possibly, he is even clinging to Jesus, trying to prevent him from departing in accordance with the Father's will (Ridderbos 1997:478).

He claims he would lay down his life for Jesus (v. 37). But he does not know his own heart, for Jesus says, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times! (v. 38). If Peter were to lay down his life for Jesus that night, it would be his own selfish act of martyrdom rather than an act of obedience to the Father. But in fact he is not really able to lay down his life for Jesus at this point. Despite his own estimate of his devotion, his love is still too selfish and he does not yet have the guidance of the Spirit. The Lord will bring him to a new stage of maturation after the resurrection, though even then there is evidence that yet further maturation is needed (see comments on 21:15-19).

The poor showing of Peter, Judas and the other disciples at this point can be an encouragement to us in our immaturity. The Lord is incredibly patient. Indeed, he is love, a will to all goodness in our own lives. But God alone is good, and we are not the ones to define goodness. So we should find in Judas's and Peter's experience a warning to be loyal to Jesus as he is rather than as we would like him to be. Only he can guide and correct our mistaken notions, as we see him doing in this Gospel repeatedly. We should be asking him to do so in our lives, receiving the guidance he has given to the church through the Spirit.

Jesus has been speaking directly to Peter, but now he broadens his focus to include the other disciples. Do not let your (plural) hearts be troubled (14:1). He has just revealed to Peter that his heart is not nearly as loyal as he thinks. Peter has it on the best authority that there is plenty that could justify his disturbed state! The prediction of Peter's denial would have shaken all of them. Peter did not always have the right answers, but his fierce loyalty to Jesus was very clear. If he is going to deny Jesus, what hope was there for the rest of them? Jesus' talk about departure and denial gave them much to be disturbed about.

Such disturbance, however, does not take into account all the relevant facts of the situation. First, while Jesus has made it clear that they cannot trust in their own loyalty to him, this is not a cause of despair but an invitation to true security. They can only find real hope and confidence by focusing on God rather than on themselves. So Jesus tells them to trust in God; trust also in me (v. 1). The form of the word trust (pisteuete, present tense) often has the nuance of continuing on in an activity or state, as it does here. They have had such faith, and now they are to continue in that faith. Although trust could be a simple statement of fact (see NIV note), the context suggests that Jesus is commanding them to trust. They are to stop letting their hearts be disturbed and hold firm their trust in God and in Jesus.

By claiming it is right to trust in himself as well as in God, Jesus continues to act and speak as one who is divine as well as human. In one sense, to believe in the Son is to believe in the Father (12:44; cf. Brown 1970:625). This puts Jesus in a unique and exclusive position (cf. 14:6).

The command to stop being disturbed requires that the disciples change their feelings. They are to do so not by focusing on their feelings, which would simply trap them in self-preoccupation, but by focusing on objective reality, namely, the Father and the Son. The disciples are to continue to hold on to their confidence in the Father and the Son despite all the feelings that will come as they see Jesus killed and as they are confronted with their own weakness. Despite all the evidence to the contrary in what is about to happen, God remains the loving, just, sovereign Father that Jesus has revealed, and Jesus remains his Son, beloved by God, and the disciples themselves remain loved by the Father. Their confidence is in God as revealed by Jesus, not in their circumstances nor in themselves. Only by being thus grounded in God do they have a stable center to focus on and to calm their hearts. By living from God's reality rather than their own feelings and the appearances of this world, they are engaging in the battle that Jesus himself is waging. Jesus' death is central to his victory over the world (16:33) and its ruler (12:31). By their faith the disciples also conquer the world (1 Jn 5:4). Thus, "Jesus' demand that they have faith in him is more than a request for a vote of confidence" (Brown 1970:624)!

Jesus has already provided them with an example of what he here commands. When his heart was "troubled" (a form of tarasso, the word used here in v. 1) he focused on the Father and the accomplishment of his will (12:27). Such remains the only source of peace and security. Given the presence of fear and worry in epidemic proportions among people, including Christians, the lesson Jesus is teaching his disciples at this point is greatly needed today as well. Only a trust in the revelation of the beauty, goodness and power of the Father and the Son will bring healing. It is perfect love that drives out fear (1 Jn 4:18).

Second, if their troubled state fails to take God into account, it also does not reckon with the purpose of Jesus' departure: In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am (vv. 2-3). Peter's question is now answered--Jesus is going to his Father's house. He is going there for their sake, in order that their relationship with him may continue. This revelation speaks directly to their concerns. If they can take hold of it in trust, their hearts will indeed no longer be troubled.

The language used here--Father's (God's) house and rooms (monai)--is used in many Jewish sources when speaking of heaven (for example, 1 Enoch 39:4-5; 2 Enoch 61:2; 2 Esdras 7:80, 101; Philo On Dreams 1.256; cf. Schnackenburg 1982:60-61). Jesus' main point is that he is going to God and will return for them; Jesus is talking about heaven and his second coming (cf. Brown 1970:626; Ridderbos 1997:490-92). This is one of the few places in this Gospel where Jesus speaks of the future hope (cf. especially 5:28-29).

The word room (mone) is related to the verb to stay (or to "remain," "abide"; meno), which is used forty times in this Gospel. It can be used of either a permanent dwelling place or a temporary stopping place (cf. Liddell, Scott and Jones 1940:1143). "Mansion," the older translation, has led to very unfortunate misunderstandings. At the time of William Tyndale and the King James Version "mansion" also, like mone, meant a dwelling place or stopping place. It could also be used of the physical dwelling place or of the manor house of a lord, but these seem to be secondary to the earlier uses as in the Greek. Now, however, we understand a mansion as being limited to a physical dwelling and having specific socioeconomic implications. This has contributed to very materialistic views of heaven, which are quite foreign to John's language. It is indeed an objective "place" but not in the material sense many have in mind. Perhaps the most helpful language we have at present to speak of such a reality is to refer to it as another "dimension." The exact relation between the present physical universe and the new heavens and new earth is unclear, but the idea that someone could reach heaven in a spaceship misunderstands the language of Scripture.

The phrase my Father's house (v. 2) was used earlier to refer to the temple in Jerusalem and Jesus' own body (2:16, 19-22). Therefore, the dwelling place of God is now to be identified with Jesus. Also of significance is the earlier saying, "The slave does not continue [or "dwell," ou menei] in the house [oikia, the same word used in 14:2] forever; the son continues [or "dwells," menei] forever" (8:35 RSV). "This special house or household where the son has a permanent dwelling place suggests a union with the Father reserved for Jesus the Son and for all those who are begotten as God's children by the Spirit that Jesus gives" (Brown 1970:627). The word mone itself suggests "the permanence, indestructibility and continuation of this union" (Hauck 1967b:580). So the dwelling places would refer to "possibilities for permanent union (mone/menein) with the Father in and through Jesus" (Brown 1970:627, following Schaefer 1933). The idea is "not mansions in the sky, but spiritual positions in Christ" (Gundry 1967:70; cf. Brown 1970:627). "His body is his Father's house; and wherever the glorified Jesus is, there is the Father" (Brown 1970:627). Therefore, he prepares a place for them by his death, resurrection and ascension, for these enable them to be united to him and, in him, with the Father; his going to the Father is itself part of the preparation of a place for them. Heaven is experienced even now through the believer's union with the Father and the Son and the Spirit. However, this present union with God that occurs as the Father, Son and Spirit abide in the believer only comes to its complete fulfillment at the second coming, when the believer is taken by Jesus to be where he is (v. 3). While the ultimate goal is the Father, this passage (and in fact the whole Gospel) is centered on Christ--it is his Father's house, and Jesus says he will come again to take them to be with me (v. 3; more literally, "I will take you to myself," pros emauton).

In saying there are many rooms (v. 2) Jesus lets the disciples know it is not only he who has a place in the Father's house, nor just Peter (cf. 13:36), for there is room for all of them and many more (cf. 17:20). He emphasizes the certainty of this fact by saying if it were not so, I would have told you (v. 2). He here speaks of the thoroughness of his revelation, for, as he will say shortly, "everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you" (15:15). He has not been stringing them along with his revelation of God's love, only to pull the carpet out from under them at the last minute. What is about to take place may look like this is what Jesus has done, but it is not. It is all part of the plan. Their greatest desire will be fulfilled, for they will be where Jesus is (v. 3).

After speaking of himself as the agent of their future access to the presence of God, he throws out a statement that steers them toward the next stage of his revelation: You know the way to the place where I am going (v. 4). This could be taken as a question: "Do you know the way to the place where I am going?" Whether or not he is asking a question, Jesus seems to be alluding to his earlier teaching about being the gate through whom the sheep "will come in and go out, and find pasture" (10:9; cf. Talbert 1992:204). If he is alluding to this, the disciples miss it. Indeed, all of Jesus' teaching in these chapters is mystifying to the disciples (cf. 16:25). But he is walking them through it so the Spirit will be able to unpack it for them later (14:26). This statement (or question) triggers the next question by a disciple, which leads Jesus to further develop the thoughts he has already expressed in very condensed fashion.

Jesus the Way to the Father

5Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?"
6Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7If you really knew me, you would know[2] my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him."

John 14:5-7


Jesus Declares Himself to Be the Way to the Father (14:5-7)

Jesus has spoken of going to his Father's house and has said the disciples know the way there (14:1-4). Thomas, speaking for all the disciples, responds, Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way? (v. 5). Here is the response of a true disciple. He asks rather than demands, which conveys a sense of humility (cf. Chrysostom In John 73.2). He is also honest, admitting his ignorance. Without such humility and honesty real discipleship is impossible. Thomas seems to understand Jesus' reference to his Father's house on a "this world" level, not unlike the way others in this Gospel, such as the woman of Samaria (chap. 4), have misunderstood. Thomas says, in effect, If we don't know the address, how are we supposed to know the route? Such a misunderstanding may seem amazing to those familiar with this Gospel, but all of us continue to have patches of such dullness, no matter how far we have traveled with God.

Jesus condemned the Jewish opponents' ignorance of his destination (for example, 8:19-27), but because these disciples have been loyal to Jesus even in their ignorance, Jesus' response is encouraging. He does not upbraid Thomas but rather proceeds to offer further enlightenment. Always in John the clue to Jesus' cryptic sayings is his own identity and his relation to the Father, and this case is no exception: I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (v. 6). Here we have "a culminating point in Johannine theology" (Schnackenburg 1982:65). All of John's thought could be expounded from this one verse.

This "I am" saying, like the others, is grounded in Jesus' divine identity and expresses something of his saving action. The three terms way, truth and life are simply linked together with "and" in the Greek (kai). But the central term is way because that was the subject of the question (vv. 4-5) and the second half of the verse speaks of coming to the Father through Jesus. Throughout the Gospel we hear of Jesus' coming from the Father, revealing God, bringing new life and then returning to the Father. But now the focus is on Jesus' role as the one who leads people to the Father. The Father is seen as distant; one must undertake a journey to reach him. Perhaps, then, the text should be translated "No one goes to the Father . . ." For it seems the primary focus is still on heaven and the future, though we will see a shift beginning to take place.

The other two terms explain how Jesus is the way; "Jesus is the way inasmuch as He is the truth and the life" (Michaelis 1967:81). Truth and life correspond to Jesus' roles in this Gospel as revealer and life-giver. God alone is truth and life, and when our rebellion separated us from God, we plunged into ignorance and death. It follows that the way to the Father requires both revelation, because of our ignorance, and life, due to our death. This idea is clear in the Old Testament, and it was addressed by the giving of the Torah and the activity of law-givers, prophets and sages. But this verse brings out how Jesus' fulfillment of the roles of revealer and life-giver is unique. Jesus' unity with the Father means he is not just a law-giver, prophet or sage who conveys God's truth, but, like God, he is the truth. Similarly, he is not simply one through whom God rescues his people. Rather, he was the agent of the creation of all life (1:3-4), and the Father has given to him to have life in himself, like God himself (5:26). Here Jesus, like God himself, is truth and life, and yet he remains distinct from God and is the way to God. As a fourteenth-century writer put it, "He Himself is the way, and in addition He is the lodging on the way and its destination" (Cabasilas 1974:48).

The second half of the verse clearly speaks of Jesus as the only way to the Father. This fact simply flows from who he is and what he has accomplished through his incarnation and upcoming death, resurrection and ascension. This verse scandalizes many people today since it seems to consign to hell large numbers of people who have never heard of Jesus, let alone those who have heard but have not come to believe in him. There are a variety of views on this topic among Christians. Some views deny the uniqueness of Jesus and have a too optimistic view of human nature, while others have a too restricted idea of God's ways of dealing with this world, which he loves. Only through Christ can we "apprehend God as the Father, and so approach the Father. . . . It does not follow that every one who is guided by Christ is directly conscious of His guidance" (Westcott 1908:2:170-71). This verse does not address the ways in which Jesus brings people to the Father, but what it does say is that no one who ends up sharing God's life will do so apart from Jesus, the unique Son of God who is, not just who conveys, truth and life.

Jesus' next statement shifts from speaking of coming (or going) to God to knowing God, thereby beginning the shift from speaking of the future and heaven to speaking of God's presence here and now: From now on, you do know him and have seen him (v. 7). This translation refers to future knowledge, but the words translated from now on (ap' arti) can also mean "now already" or "assuredly." Such a statement of their present knowledge of the Father would be more in keeping with how the conversation progresses in the next section, for Jesus' affirmation that they have seen the Father introduces a new term to the discussion, which triggers the next question and the next stage of his teaching.

8Philip said, "Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us."
9Jesus answered: "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? 10Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. 12I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. 14You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

Jesus Promises the Holy Spirit

15"If you love me, you will obey what I command. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever-- 17the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be[3] in you. 18I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him."

John 14:8-21


Jesus Speaks of Both His Relation to the Father and His Disciples' Relation to the Father (14:8-21)

In response to Jesus' assertion that they know the Father and have seen him (v. 7), Philip says, Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us (v. 8). It will be enough for us--one would hope so! Here is the great desire of people throughout the ages--the vision of God. In saying it will be enough for us perhaps Philip simply means such a vision would take care of their troubled hearts (v. 1). In any case, Philip's request focuses on what has been central to Jesus all the way through, namely, the Father. Philip has the right focus, though he has much to learn concerning his master.

What in particular does Philip have in mind? His request echoes that of Moses when he said to God, "Show me your glory," which the Septuagint translates, "Show me yourself" (Ex 33:18). The Old Testament has accounts of people who have seen God, yet also warns that such a vision would bring death (see comment on 1:18). Philip seems to have in mind an experience such as Moses or Isaiah had. He has a very exalted view of Jesus since he thinks Jesus can enable such an experience. But his view is not nearly exalted enough, as Jesus makes clear.

Philip has not really known Jesus (v. 9) because at the center of Jesus' identity is his relation to the Father, a relation of such intimacy that Jesus can say anyone who has seen me has seen the Father (v. 9). Again we have the language of agency, reflecting the idea that one's representative is "like to himself" (m. Berakot 5:5; see note on 5:21). But the way Jesus describes this relationship goes far beyond the notion of an agent, for he speaks of a mutual indwelling: I am in the Father, and . . . the Father is in me (v. 10). He does not simply represent the Father, he presents him. Such complete union means that Jesus' words and deeds have their source in the Father (v. 10; cf. 5:36; 8:28; 10:38). Jesus may be the Father's agent, but the Father is also the agent at work through Jesus. Jesus does not say, however, that he is the Father. Throughout the gospel Jesus maintains a careful distinction between his oneness with God and his distinctness from him (see comments on 1:1 and 10:30).

Thus, elements of all three of the forms of sight mentioned above (see comment on 1:18) are included in Jesus' response to Philip. The incarnation points to the value of these first two types of sight, the physical and the intellectual, but in themselves they do not go deep enough. Physical sight is involved in observing Jesus, but this form of seeing is the least significant element, since even the opponents had that. Intellectual insight is important, because Philip is supposed to draw out the implications of what he has seen and heard in Jesus. But again this is not enough, for even the opponents have seen the implications but have rejected them (for example, chap. 9). The third type of sight is needed, that which comes through faith. Jesus asks Philip whether he believes that the Father and the Son dwell within one another (v. 10). Then he addresses all the disciples, saying, Believe [pisteuete, plural] me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves (v. 11). They should trust his claim or, if need be, go to the evidence of the deeds he has done. These deeds have manifested "his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth" (1:14). "The faith at issue is the faith that man really encounters God in his encounter with Jesus, that Jesus and the Father are one" (Bultmann 1971:609). Until they grasp this aspect of Jesus' identity they cannot really understand anything else about him.

With Jesus about to depart, he speaks of greater things, which the disciples themselves are to accomplish (v. 12). Those who will do greater things are not just the disciples to whom Jesus is speaking but anyone who has faith in me. Each believer will do what I have been doing (v. 12), or more literally, "will do the works (ta erga) that I do." Some people find it odd to join together faith and works. Scripture is clear that salvation comes from God's grace, which we appropriate by faith. Our works do not produce life in us, but faith itself includes works because faith is not just a response of the intellect or the feelings but of the whole person, especially of the will. Salvation itself is a matter of sharing in God's own life, and that life is very active. As Paul will say, "The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself [or "working" energoumene] through love" (Gal 5:6).

What are these greater things of which Jesus speaks? Some think he is referring to spectacular miracles, but what would top the raising of Lazarus? Others think it refers to the missionary activity of the disciples, their bringing more converts to faith. Such activity is an important focus for the disciples, but the meaning here is more specific. These greater things are possible because I am going to the Father (v. 12). That is, Jesus' greatest work has yet to occur: his death, resurrection and ascension. After he is glorified, the Spirit will be given (7:39), and believers can then receive the full benefits of the salvation Jesus has accomplished through the union that comes through the Spirit. The disciples' works are greater in that they are "the conveying to people of the spiritual realities of which the works of Jesus are `signs'" (Beasley-Murray 1987:254). So greater things refer to our having a deeper understanding of God and sharing in his own life through actual union with him, which is now possible as a result of Jesus' completed work (cf. 14:20). It is not just a matter of more disciples; it is a matter of a qualitatively new reality in which the disciples share.

Even though Jesus is departing, these greater things are not accomplished by the disciples apart from Jesus (cf. Bultmann 1971:611), but rather through prayer to him (vv. 13-14). Even though he will be gone, they can still ask him. Such a claim may mean merely that Jesus will be a heavenly mediator, but given the clear teaching throughout the Gospel that affirms Jesus' deity we should see much more involved here. Like the Father, he is an appropriate one to whom to pray.

Jesus assures them that I will do whatever you ask in my name (v. 13), a theme that will be repeated throughout the farewell discourse (15:7, 16; 16:23-24, 26; cf. 1 Jn 3:22; 5:14-15). Praying "in Jesus' name" does not refer to some magic formula added to the end of a prayer. It means to pray in keeping with his character and concerns and, indeed, in union with him. The disciples, through their union with Christ, are taken up into his agenda. This agenda, as throughout his ministry, is to bring glory to the Father (v. 13). This verse has been understood by some Christians to be a blanket promise that Jesus will give them whatever they want. Such idolatry of the self is the very opposite of eternal life. "Whatsoever we ask that is adverse to the interests of salvation, we do not ask in the name of the Savior" (Augustine In John 73.3). Rather, the promise is made to those who will pray in Jesus' name and for the glory of the Father. As such it is a great promise for the advance of God's purposes in oneself, in the church and in the world.

That which is called for on the part of the disciple is love: If you love me, you will obey what I command (v. 15), or, more literally, "you will keep my commands" (tas entolas tas emas teresete). Again Jesus describes himself in a role commonly, though not exclusively, associated with God, the giver of commands. This statement is not so much a promise that the one who loves him will keep his commands as it is a definition of love itself. Jesus is referring not only to his ethical instructions, which are very few in this Gospel, but to the whole of his teaching (vv. 23-24), including his way of life. Accordingly, John will instruct his disciples later, saying, "Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did" (1 Jn 2:6; cf. 1 Cor 4:17). Now the hallmark of Jesus' "ways," his "walk," was complete dependence on and obedience to the Father, only doing and speaking what he received from the Father. Such a life is itself an expression of love, since love, for John, is the laying down of one's life (1 Jn 3:16). Thus Jesus himself has modeled the life of love he describes here in terms of obedience (cf. 8:29; 14:31). Love, like faith, is the engagement of the whole person, especially the person's will.

Faith and love unite disciples to God and take them up into God's work, but these "greater things" will require God's own resources. So Jesus promises that I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever (v. 16). Here is the first of several references in the farewell discourse to the Paraclete (parakletos), translated in the NIV as Counselor (14:16-17, 26; 15:26; 16:7-11, 13-15). This word is a verbal adjective meaning "called alongside," related to the verb parakaleo, "call to one, summon." Outside the New Testament it is used in legal contexts to mean "a legal assistant, advocate" (Liddell, Scott and Jones 1940:1313; Behm 1967:800-803). Johannes Behm, among others, tries to argue that this is the meaning in John as well (1967:811-14) but has to conclude "subsidiary senses were interwoven into the primary sense of `advocate,' so that no single word can provide an adequate rendering" (1967:814). Actually, even the sense of advocate, as either a defense attorney or a spokesman, is not present in John (Brown 1970:1136). Rather, in John the functions of the Paraclete are mainly "teaching, revealing and interpreting Jesus to the disciples" (Turner 1992:349). While the Paraclete's activity of testifying to Jesus (15:26) and convicting the world (16:7-11) are like legal activities, they are not specifically activities of a defense attorney but rather of a prosecuting attorney, toward the world, and a witness, toward the disciples. Thus, "the title and the tasks ascribed to the Paraclete seem to be out of step" (Burge 1987:7), and there is no comprehensive title that does justice to "the variety of traits given to the Paraclete" (Burge 1987:9). It is best to use the transliteration "Paraclete" and examine the Gospel itself to see how John uses the term.

John speaks of the Paraclete in relation to the Father, the Son, the disciples and the world. The Father is the source of the Paraclete (14:16, 26; 15:26), and Jesus is the one who sends the Paraclete by asking the Father to send him (14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7). Thus both the Son and the Paraclete have the same source, the Father, but the Son has a role in the historical sending of the Paraclete. Both Jesus and the Paraclete play distinct but related roles in the revelation of the Father and the giving of life. Indeed, Gary Burge has counted sixteen similarities between Jesus and the Paraclete (1987:141), which we will note as they appear in the text. For instance, in our present text the Paraclete is called "another Paraclete" (14:16), which implies that Jesus himself is the Paraclete. In 1 John the term itself is actually used of Jesus: "But if anyone does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense [the NIV's paraphrase of parakletos]--Jesus Christ, the Righteous One" (2:1). In 1 John the role does seem to be in a legal setting. Jesus, in his humanity as the Righteous One, is our advocate before God when it comes to dealing with our sin. But in the Gospel, Jesus says the Paraclete will take up the role Jesus himself has already been fulfilling during his ministry. Perhaps the most fundamental aspect of Jesus' ministry has been to mediate the divine presence, so it is tempting to find the general idea behind the usage of the word Paraclete, both in John's letter and in the Gospel, to be "presence." Jesus is a human presence ("the Righteous One") in heaven, and he is the divine presence on earth. The Paraclete (who is himself distinct from Jesus and not simply Jesus' presence) is to continue that divine presence among the disciples.

The various terms used to translate parakletos, such as Counselor, Advocate and Comforter, get at different aspects of what he accomplishes through his presence. The Paraclete is called "the Spirit of truth" (14:16; 15:26; 16:13) and "the Holy Spirit" (14:26), which may help explain why the world does not see or know him (14:17), since the world is neither holy nor of the truth. His dwelling is with the believers, for he is in them and is known by them (14:17). By his presence with the disciples, not with the world, and by his witness to Jesus who was rejected by the world, the Paraclete judges the world through the believers (16:7-11). As the divine presence among believers the Paraclete enables them to be God's presence in the world. He is with them and in them glorifying Jesus by revealing the truth about him to believers (14:16-17; 14:26; 16:13-15). In this way, the community, by the presence of the Paraclete, bears witness to Jesus and thus continues Jesus' own mission of judgment and life-giving. Most commentators think that the Paraclete actually mediates the presence of Jesus to the community. This is true (see comment on 16:25), though John does not say this directly (see comment on 14:23-27).

Thus, we understand that much of John's theology is captured in this term parakletos, especially when we realize it is used of both Jesus and the Spirit. Jesus as the divine presence on earth and the human presence in heaven speaks of the mystery of the incarnation, of the divine-human being who is "presence" both before God and humanity. Jesus and the Spirit together reveal the Father within history--Jesus within his own person and the Spirit through testimony to Jesus within and through the community of God, those who have received Jesus and been given power to become children of God (1:12) and have become witnesses to Jesus (15:26-27). The Spirit is the divine presence within believers, bringing about the transformation of human beings so they live the life of God in the form that such divine life takes within and among us creatures, though John does not use the term Paraclete when referring to this role of the Spirit. Rather, the role of the Spirit as Paraclete is similar to that of the Spirit of prophecy in the Old Testament, that is, "the Spirit acting as the organ of communication between God and a person" (Turner 1992:342; see also p. 351). He bears witness to Jesus, thereby leading the disciples into all truth and convicting the world for their rejection of Jesus. This theme of bearing witness is part of the larger motif of a legal trial that runs through the Gospel: Jesus reveals the Father, which brings about the world's judgment, and the world in turn condemns Jesus.

Returning to our present passage (14:16), we see that the Paraclete, like the Son, comes from the Father as a gift of the Father, for Jesus says the Father will give them the Paraclete at the Son's request. In contrast to Jesus, who is now departing, the Paraclete will be with them forever. As we will soon learn, it is only Jesus' visible presence that will be absent from them; Jesus himself will remain in union with them. Thus both Jesus and the Paraclete will be with the believers. Further connection with Jesus is evident when he refers to the Paraclete as the Spirit of truth, since Jesus is the truth, as he has just affirmed (14:6). The Paraclete's relation to the world is like Jesus', since the world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him (v. 17), as has been the case with Jesus.

Jesus contrasts the disciples to the world: But you know him, for he lives (menei, "remains," "abides") with you and will be in you (v. 17). This present tense, you know him, seems strange, since Jesus has yet to request the Spirit (v. 16; 16:7) and the disciples have not yet received the Spirit. Although Jesus says this Paraclete will be in you, he already remains among them (v. 17; par' hymin menei, translated in the NIV as lives with you). The Spirit is not absent before the glorification. Indeed, he is present "without limit" in Jesus (3:34; cf. Burge 1987:83-84) and must be at work in the disciples in order for them to have the faith and love that Jesus mentions (vv. 12, 15; cf. Augustine In John 74.1-2). But the Paraclete has not yet been sent to the disciples and received by them in the new way Jesus is opening up. Both Jesus and this Paraclete have been present to the disciples already, even though the coming level of intimacy with both will be so much deeper that it is the difference between death and life (see comment on 20:22; cf. Gen 2:7).

Having promised that the Paraclete would be given to the disciples, Jesus next speaks of his own return to them (v. 18). Some suggest that orphans is "simply used in a figurative sense for `abandoned'," with "perhaps a hint of the defenselessness of the orphan: `I will not leave you unprotected'" (Seesemann 1967:488). But more is involved, for Jesus is the only way to the Father (v. 6), and apart from him we are in fact orphaned. Only his coming to us overcomes this condition. But which coming does Jesus refer to? The fact that the disciples will see him (v. 19) suggests his coming spiritual presence with them is not in view, and the fact that the world will not see him rules out the second coming. So, most likely, he is speaking of his appearance after the resurrection (Beasley-Murray 1987:258), at which time he will impart the Spirit to them (20:22).

Not only will they not be abandoned, with Jesus' return after the resurrection they will enter into the new kind of life he has been revealing throughout his ministry (v. 19). The phrase before long, literally, "yet a little while" (eti mikron), comes from the Old Testament (for example, Ps 37:10 par. 36:10 LXX; Is 10:25; 26:20; 29:17; Jer 51:33 par. 28:33 LXX; Hos 1:4; Hag 2:6), where it is used "to express optimistically the shortness of time before God's salvation would come" (Brown 1970:607). When Jesus uses the expression it is indeed only a little while, a matter of a couple of days, until the salvation that is the beginning of the fulfillment of all the hopes will come. This salvation is a matter of life: Because I live, you also will live (v. 19). They will live because they will be united to him by the Spirit and thus come to share in the life of him who is resurrection and life. All of this is made possible by Jesus' own death and resurrection.

These connections are brought out in the next verse: On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you (v. 20). The day referred to is the day of resurrection that inaugurates on earth a qualitatively new form of life, eternal life. The phrase on that day, like the phrase before long, echoes Old Testament hopes, for it is used 111 times in the Prophets to refer to the day of God's great acts of judgment and salvation. Here the salvation is expressed in terms of knowledge and union. The intimacy that exists between the Father and the Son has been the subject of Jesus' revelation. Jesus has called upon the disciples to accept this truth about him in faith (vv. 10-11), and now he promises that after the resurrection the disciples will come to realize it (gnosesthe), they will know it. Like faith, this knowledge is not just an intellectual grasping of a truth. It comes from a participation in the divine reality itself, for it is said they will share in that relationship because they will be in the Son and he in them. Thus, what was just said of the Paraclete (v. 17) is now said of the Son. The Son and the Paraclete will both indwell the disciples, key themes that will be developed in the rest of the farewell discourse.

This indwelling is what will enable them to accomplish the task of doing "greater things" (v. 12). What has been true of Jesus will now be true of them--not that they will become unique sons and daughters of God as Jesus is the "One and Only" (1:14, 18), but rather that they, continuing as creatures, will share in the divine life by being taken up into the Son, just as Jesus took up into himself humanity at his incarnation. For Jesus "was much more than one individual among the many. He was the true self of the human race, standing in that perfect union with God to which others can attain only as they are incorporate in Him; the mind, whose thought is truth absolute (14:6), which other men think after Him; the true life of man, which other men live by sharing it with Him (14:6, 20; 6:57)" (Dodd 1953:249).

Jesus then ties this teaching together by repeating his description of the disciples of whom all of this will be true: Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me (v. 21). This union is not simply a matter of shared ideas or feelings but of shared life. The love is reciprocal: He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him (v. 21). This verse does not deny the love God has for all his creatures, but rather speaks of the fulfillment of that love in a qualitatively new way for those who are in the Son. Believers are those who "have entered into the same reciprocity of love that unites the Father and the Son" (Barrett 1978:465).

Jesus says that he himself will love such a disciple and will show himself to him or her (v. 21). Thus, Jesus himself will remain in personal contact with his disciples. He may be departing, but he will remain in relationship with them although the relationship will exist in a new form (see comment on 20:17). The showing he mentions could refer to his resurrection appearances, but the shift from the plural (v. 20, you) to the singular (v. 21, he who) suggests more is intended (Ridderbos 1997:507). The reference to resurrection presence slides over into a reference to the ongoing presence mediated by the Spirit, as becomes clear from the further discussion raised by this statement.

22Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, "But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?"
23Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.
25"All this I have spoken while still with you. 26But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
28"You heard me say, 'I am going away and I am coming back to you.' If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. 30I will not speak with you much longer, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold on me, 31but the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me.
"Come now; let us leave.

John 14:22-31


Jesus Contrasts His Disciples' Relation to God with the World's Relation to God (14:22-31)

Jesus has said he will show himself to the one who loves him (v. 21), so Judas (not Judas Iscariot) asks, But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world? (v. 22). The term used for show (emphanizo) is used in the Septuagint for the theophany Moses received on Sinai (Ex 33:13, 18). Judas seems to be confused because he is "looking for another theophany that will startle the world" (Brown 1970:647), but Jesus is only speaking of showing himself to his disciples.

As is often the case, Jesus does not seem to address the question directly, yet in fact he goes to the heart of the issue. Judas has spoken of the contrast between us and the world, and Jesus describes the disciple as one who loves him (v. 23): If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching (v. 23; or "keep my word," ton logon mou teresei). Jesus is referring not to simply holding onto his teaching, but to actually acting in accordance with it, as he himself has responded to the Father (v. 31). His teaching is not just interesting thoughts about God and the world. Rather, he has revealed God and opened the way to share God's own life. To obey his teaching is to adopt God's pattern of life. But the condition for such obedience is love for Jesus. The commands of Jesus are not a set of rules like a traffic code; they are a description of a pattern of life that reflects God's own life trans-posed into human circumstances. Love for Jesus involves both an attachment to him and a oneness with him and his interests, which naturally leads one to obey him and walk as he walked (1 Jn 2:6). One obeys what one loves. Indeed, our patterns of obedience reveal what we really love.

After describing the one to whom he will show himself, Jesus speaks of the showing itself: My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him (v. 23). Instead of describing a spectacular theophany, Jesus speaks of dwelling with his disciples. The word for home (mone) is the same used earlier of the "rooms" in the Father's house (v. 2). The future intimacy in heaven will begin already here on earth. The great prophetic hope of a time when God would dwell with his people (Ezek 37:26-27; Zech 2:10) has come to pass in the incarnation and the dwelling Jesus here mentions.

In this passage, as throughout the Gospel, we have the dependency of the Son upon the Father. The Father, in love, sent the Son, and so those who receive the Son in love will receive this love of the Father. For the word that they obey in love is not the Son's but that of the Father himself (v. 24). Jesus' word is not the word of a mere human teacher that can be debated and modified; it comes from the Father and thus is and expresses ultimate reality. Those who do not love and obey the Son reject the Father himself (v. 24; cf. 1 Jn 2:23). The opponents are not able to hear Jesus' word from the Father (8:43), but the disciples receive the Father's word through the Son and take into their lives that which is of God, thus sharing in his love. The Son does not come to the disciples on his own, but, just as with the incarnation itself, this new mode of dwelling with them will be initiated by the Father's love. The Son continues to do what he sees the Father doing, and together he and the Father come to the disciple. The divinity of the Son, his oneness with the Father, again underlies what is being said (cf. Westcott 1908:2:181).

While in the future the Father and the Son will make their dwelling with (para) the true disciple (v. 23), in the meantime Jesus is still with (para) them, giving them further words to receive and obey (v. 25). He realizes that there is no way they can understand what he has just been explaining to them, so he comforts them with the promise of an interpreter: But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you (v. 26). Here is the second of the Paraclete passages (cf. v. 16). Jesus has just referred to himself as one sent by the Father (v. 24), and now he says the same of the Paraclete. This is the only place the Paraclete is identified with the Holy Spirit, which indicates that the Paraclete passages convey only part of the larger teaching about the Holy Spirit, focusing mainly on the role of witness and instruction. Earlier it was said the Paraclete is sent at Jesus' request (v. 16), and now it is said that he is sent in my name. This expression, as we have seen elsewhere (see comment on v. 13), includes the idea of union. As the disciple's prayer is to be in conformity with Jesus' character and actually in union with Jesus' own intent (v. 13), so the Paraclete himself is in union with Jesus and in conformity with his character and mission. "Jesus bore God's name (17:11, 12) because he was the revelation of God to men; the Spirit is sent in Jesus' name because he unfolds the meaning of Jesus for men" (Brown 1970:653). Thus, the Paraclete will bear witness to Jesus just as Jesus has borne witness to the Father, having come in his Name (5:43; 10:25).

Specifically, the Paraclete will teach and remind. In John, to remember something means both to recall it and understand it (see comment on 2:22; Mussner 1967). Teaching and reminding probably should not be seen as two separate activities but instead as two ways of speaking of the same thing (the kai would be epexegetic; cf. Schnackenburg 1982:83), so verse 26 is perhaps better translated as "that one will teach you everything, that is, he will remind you of everything which I said to you." The all things that the Paraclete will teach the disciples does not refer to knowledge of all sorts, such as the height of Mount Everest or the general theory of relativity. God is indeed the God of all creation, but the all things spoken of here is the revelation of himself that has come in Jesus (see comment on 16:14). The Spirit understands all about Jesus and will clarify all that he has taught (cf. 1 Cor 2:11-12). This word "all" (panta, translated all things and everything in the NIV) speaks of the comprehensiveness of the Spirit's work; he will leave out nothing of what Jesus has taught. Later we will learn that Jesus himself has left out nothing of what he has learned from the Father (15:15), and all that belongs to the Father is his (5:20; 16:15; 17:10). Thus, Jesus is the fullness of the revelation of the Father. No further revelation is needed, nor would it be possible. What is called for is an understanding of the revelation that has come in Jesus, and this is what the Paraclete will provide.

The promise that the Father and the Son will dwell with believers is in close proximity to the promise of the Spirit. This has led many to understand the presence of the Father and Son as being mediated by the Spirit (cf. Turner 1992:349-50), though others point out that the text does not say as much (Beasley-Murray 1987:258, 260). It is clear that the Father and the Son are personally present with the believers and that the Spirit has a role clearly distinguished from, though in union with, the Father and the Son. The Paraclete's teaching role is focused on the historical Jesus, as indicated by the reference to all things and everything (v. 26) and the use of the past tense (eipon, translated I have said). This focus on the Son is further emphasized by the inclusion of the emphatic personal pronoun "I" (ego, in v. 26: everything I have said to you) though the manuscripts vary at this point. Later passages will also indicate that Jesus himself continues to instruct the disciples, which suggests the Spirit mediates Jesus' presence (see comment on 16:25).

The other distinctive is the gift of peace that Jesus gives them: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives (v. 27). Here is the fulfillment of the prophets' promise of peace (for example, Is 9:6-7; 52:7; Ezek 37:26; cf. Beasley-Murray 1987:262). The peace Jesus is talking about is not the cessation of hostilities from enemies, but rather the gift of calmness and confidence that comes from union with God and faith in him and his purposes. The world's idea of peace is something that comes through destroying of enemies and consists of physical and emotional comfort. The peace that Jesus gives is grounded in God and not in circumstances. It is the peace that Jesus himself has exhibited in this Gospel and is exhibiting in this farewell discourse, even while he knows he is about to be killed. Soon he will speak of the continued trouble his disciples will experience in the world (15:18--16:4), but they will simply be living out what he himself has already been experiencing. They will share his troubles, but they will also have his peace, for they will share in his own relationship with the Father.

This promise of the gift of his own peace serves as the foundation for the command he now gives: Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid (v. 27). He repeats exactly the command that began this chapter (v. 1), adding now a reference to fear (mede deiliato). This word family is always used of fear in a negative sense, as the opposite of courage. Those with a settled disposition of such fear evidence a lack of faith in God and a denial of his presence, his goodness and his power. Those who experience such fear, which includes virtually all of us to some degree, may take comfort that as God's life grows within us and as our hearts are healed, we enter into the inheritance of Jesus' peace, which replaces our sinful fear. Jesus here calls us to receive his peace. The grounds of this peace is the "perfect love" that "drives out fear" (1 Jn 4:18). This love is ultimately a sharing of the relationship between the Father and the Son, of which Jesus now goes on to speak.

His announcement that he is departing to the Father should fill them with joy instead of disturbance and fear (v. 28). The construction in Greek of the phrase If you loved me indicates that Jesus' view is that they have not done so. So their response shows that they have not yet come to love him in the truest sense. They think they love him, but in fact they are more focused on themselves than on him (Westcott 1908:2:185). Fear in itself is focused on self and circumstances rather than on God. Focus on God is central to all Jesus does and says, as it is here: If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I (v. 28). Jesus' great love and focus is the Father; thus the prospect of returning to him fills Jesus with joy. If the disciples shared this focus and really loved Jesus, that is, willed the best for him, they also would share this joy.

Jesus' statement that the Father is greater than I is very important for understanding the relation between the Father and the Son. Arius, who lived in the fourth century, and others who have held views similar to his since then have taken this verse as proof that Jesus is not divine. The teachers of the church rejected this notion, and indeed it is not compatible with other material in this very Gospel. It has been clear from the first verse that the Son is one with God yet distinct from God (especially 1:1-18; 8:58; 10:30; 20:28). In fact, this distinctness is now further clarified by Jesus' saying the Father is greater. From the time of the early church this verse has been the focus of much thought (cf. Westcott 1908:2:191-96; Pollard 1970). There have been two main ways to understand this verse that do justice to the oneness of the Father and the Son.

First, some say that the verse's focus is on Jesus' historical mission. The Father is greater in that he is the source and goal of Jesus' mission (for example, Calvin 1959:89-90; Brown 1970:655; Schnackenburg 1982:85-86; Ridderbos 1997:512). Others hold another form of this first view, which says the Father is greater than the Son in reference to his incarnate state (for example, Cyril of Alexandria, Ambrose, Augustine; cf. Westcott 1908:2:195). Such focus on the incarnation as such or on Jesus' historical mission are quite compatible with "the belief in the unity of the divine Nature, and therefore with the belief in the equality of the Godhead of the Son with the Godhead of the Father" (Westcott 1908:2:191). Indeed, many of the fathers of the church accepted more than one view. But some also said that while the incarnate Son may be in view here, by itself this interpretation is inadequate. After all, it is no big deal to say that God is greater than a man (Basil Letter 8.5; Gregory of Nazianzus Oration 30.7).

While the words "Father" and "Son" are obviously taken from our human context, they refer, according to the second main interpretation of this verse, to realities within the Godhead itself. Fatherhood is not our projection onto God; rather it is from him that our fatherhood derives (cf. Eph 3:14-15). His fatherhood transcends our limited ideas and experience, but it is not less than that which is reflected amongst us, and indeed it provides a standard of true fatherhood. Now, to be a father one must have an offspring. Jesus is eternally Son; he is not just Son at his incarnation. Such was the faith of the ancient church, as expressed in the Nicene Creed, which refers to Jesus Christ as "the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, very God from very God." So the Father is understood as the source of Jesus not just in his incarnation and mission, but in his eternal being as Son. "What else does the word Father signify unless the being, cause and origin of that which is begotten of him?" (Basil Against Eunomius 1.25; 3.1). The Father is greater in that he is the origin (eternally) of the Son, but he and the Son are equal in that they share the same nature (Gregory of Nazianzus Oration 30.7). To say that the Father is greater than the Son does not in the least mean that the Son does not share in the deity, since "comparisons are made between things of the same species" (Basil Letter 8.5). As D. A. Carson says, if he were to say, "`Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second is greater than I,' no one would take this to mean that she is more of a human being than I" (1991:507). Thus, this passage gives a further glimpse into the relations within the Godhead without denying the oneness of the Father and the Son.

Given the focus in this Gospel on the relation between the Father and the Son it seems likely that the passage addresses this deeper issue. This does not mean that John himself was thinking in the categories the later church used to express the relation between the Father and the Son. But the fundamental mystery, the reality itself, is here revealed. The fact that the deeper relation is in view does not mean the reference to the incarnation is not also appropriate. C. K. Barrett stresses the incarnation view, but he actually captures nicely the two thoughts together in one sentence: "The Father is fons divinitatis [fountain/source of divine nature/Godhead] in which the being of the Son has its source; the Father is God sending and commanding, the Son is God sent and obedient" (1978:468).

The issues raised by this verse are matters of significant debate today. The false teaching of Arius is still quite prevalent, and thus the issue of Jesus' deity continues to be debated. But even among those who accept his oneness with God there is dispute over the nature of this relationship. Since the life of the church derives from and is to reflect the pattern of the life of God the question of hierarchy and equality within the Godhead has significant implications for our view both of God and of the life to which he calls us. Unfortunately, most of the debate seems to be between those promoting hierarchy on the one side and equality on the other. Few are wrestling with what seems to be the biblical picture of both hierarchy and equality. Fallen human society can understand hierarchy and equality separately, but to have them both at the same time is a concept found rarely if ever in fallen humanity. But then Jesus is quite clear that his kingdom is not of this world (18:36; cf. 8:23; 14:30). The patterns of kingdom life proposed by both hierarchicalists and egalitarians are altogether too much of this world. We need to take more seriously the otherworldly revelation John is passing on to us. We need now as much as ever the Paraclete to instruct us.

Jesus concludes this short section on peace by saying the very fact that he is telling them all of this ahead of time is itself a part of his message of assurance and peace (v. 29). Jesus knows what is about to occur, so therefore these events, as devastating as they will seem, should strengthen their faith in him rather than undermine it (cf. 13:19; 16:4).

After emphasizing his present teaching (vv. 25, 29), Jesus concludes by saying the time for talk is over--now come the final deeds (vv. 30-31). The reason he will not speak with them much longer is that the prince of this world is coming (v. 30). This passage has dealt mainly with the distinction between the disciples and the world, and now at its conclusion we have the fundamental contrast between Jesus and the world. Behind Jesus' human opponents is the one primary opponent who has led the rebellion that transformed the world as the created order, which was good, to the world in opposition to the loving Father. According to the NIV Jesus says this prince . . . has no hold on me. This verse may reflect a Hebrew expression (`ayin lo `ali) that was used in a legal sense of having no claim over a person (Beasley-Murray 1987:263). So Jesus would be making again the point that no one takes his life from him; rather he lays it down of his own accord (10:18). The expression has no hold on me could also be translated "has nothing in me" (en emoi ouk echei ouden). With this reading, the text would give us the reason the prince has no hold or claim on Jesus--there is nothing of his rebellion in Jesus; Jesus is not of this world (8:23).

The NIV takes Jesus' next expression as an imperative: but the world must learn that I love the Father (v. 31). The construction here (a hina clause) more often conveys purpose, and this reading would be more in keeping with the flow of thought. There is nothing in Jesus that gives the ruler of this world a hold or claim on him, but Jesus is going to go through with the Passion in order that the world may know that he loves the Father. This love for the Father is then explained in the next clause (taking the kai as epexegetic; cf. Brown 1970:656): ". . . that I love the Father, that is, that I do just what the Father commanded me to do." The command, of course, is to lay down his life, which itself is love (1 Jn 3:16).

This obedient love Jesus has for the Father is the ultimate contrast between himself and the devil. As the disciples share in this love by their own obedient love for Jesus they also will no longer be of this world (17:14). In the Passion that is about to take place, the prince of this world will be driven out, and the world will be judged (12:31). But more is involved than just condemnation. Another side of the Passion, as verse 31 reveals, is its witness to Jesus. The cross itself will demonstrate what everything else in his life has also testified, that he loves the Father and is obedient to him. Here is a manifestation for the world, and it is meant for the salvation of the world (12:32). The cross is both God's judgment and his evangelism, and both are expressions of his love. Witnessing to this revelation of the cross will be the job of the disciples, enabled by the Paraclete, as the next two chapters will explain. While Jesus will not manifest himself to the world (v. 22), the disciples' union with the Father, the Son and the Paraclete and their sharing in the divine life and peace and joy will be a witness to the world. They will bear witness both verbally and in their life to the love of God manifest in the cross.

Jesus concludes, Come now; let us leave (v. 31). These words are puzzling, because Jesus and his disciples do not seem to leave until later: "Having said these things, Jesus departed with his disciples" (18:1; obscured in the NIV, which paraphrases eipon, "having said," as "when he had finished praying"). Some commentators take the end of chapter 14 quite literally and assume the next three chapters were spoken en route, with 18:1 referring to the departure from Jerusalem (Westcott 1908:2:187). Others suggest, as commonly happens, that they stood to leave but lingered to talk further. In this case the end of verse 31 would signal a new stage in the teaching (Morris 1971:661). Others, such as C. H. Dodd, spiritualize the leaving referred to in verse 31: "There is no physical movement from the place. The movement is a movement of the spirit, an interior act of will, but it is a real departure nevertheless" (Dodd 1953:409). The majority of recent commentators believe this is a clear seam in the fabric of the Gospel, which indicates that chapters 15--17 were added to an earlier version of the Gospel. They point to the fact that 13:31--14:31 forms a coherent whole, whereas the material in chapters 15--17 shares the same style and theology and for the most part covers the same ground. Some would say, therefore, that these chapters formed an alternative version of the farewell discourse. But the fact that new angles are explored in this material (for example, through the theme of abiding and through an increased emphasis on the conflict with the world) suggests rather that this material was a supplement to the material in 13:31--14:31 and not an alternative version. This material could have been composed by later disciples, but one would expect them to have done a better job of editing. More likely it came from John, comprising further material that he was used to including as he recounted the story of Jesus but that he had left out of his draft of the Gospel. These chapters were added later either by him or by his disciples. If they were added by John's disciples, then the fact that they did not modify these last words of verse 31 to make the transition smoother may point not to their incompetence but to their reverence for their master's teaching. Thus, while there is debate about the exact nature of this inclusion (cf. Beasley-Murray 1987:223-24; Carson 1991:476-80; Paschal 1992:231-32), some such theory seems likely. Further work on ancient literary and oral forms will probably add new insight to this puzzle.

The Vine and the Branches

1"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[1] so that it will be even more fruitful. 3You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
5"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.

John 15:1-6


Jesus Calls the Disciples to Remain in Him, the True Vine (15:1-17)

We now come to one of the most powerful descriptions of the eternal life to which John is bearing witness. Jesus has spoken of the cleansing of the disciples (13:10-11), the coming intimacy with him and his Father (14:20-21, 23), the coming of the Paraclete (14:16-17, 26) and the love command (13:34-35). Each of these themes, among others, is further developed in chapter 15. Jesus begins with the themes of intimacy and cleansing using the figure of the vine (15:1-6), and then he interprets and applies that teaching, tying it in with themes found throughout the farewell discourse (vv. 7-17).

Jesus Declares He Is the True Vine and His Disciples Are the Branches (15:1-6)

Jesus begins with the Gospel's final "I am" saying. The earlier sayings had focused on Jesus as the life-giver and had included an invitation to come to him and to believe in him (6:35; 8:12; 10:9; 11:25-26; 14:6). Now, however, Jesus is speaking to those who have already come to him, and so his charge is that they remain in him (cf. Michaels 1989:271). The earlier theme of life is now developed in terms of intimate union with Jesus, a sharing in his own life. Thus, this is a fitting conclusion to the "I am" sayings.

The image is not a parable, since it is not a story, but rather an extended metaphor (Carson 1991:513), that is, basically an allegory, for all the details have significance. The main point of the image is clear enough: the intimate union of believers with Jesus. The disciple's very life depends on this union. As branches, believers either bear fruit and are pruned to bear more fruit or do not bear fruit and are thrown away and burned.

The image of the vine, and the closely associated term vineyard, were commonly used throughout the Mediterranean world (cf. Barrett 1978:472; Brown 1970:669-72). Most significant for our passage is their frequent use in the Old Testament and in Judaism to symbolize Israel (Barrett ibid.; Brown ibid.; Behm 1964:342). Isaiah has an extended use of this image in his "Song of the Vineyard" (5:1-7), and there are many other less developed uses (for example, Jer 5:10). The image of the vineyard frequently shifted to the vine, as here in John (for example, Jer 6:9). On the temple there was a "golden vine with grape clusters hanging from it, a marvel of size and artistry" (Josephus Antiquities of the Jews 15.395), and the vine was used to represent Jerusalem on coins made during the first Jewish revolt (A.D. 66-70), so the vine was clearly a symbol of Israel. Furthermore, even the notion of a true vine shows up in the Old Testament: "I planted you as a fruitful vine, entirely true [alethinos]. How have you become a wild vine, turned to bitterness" (Jer 2:21 LXX). Here, as also in Isaiah's Song of the Vineyard, God, the gardener, cared for his vineyard but got sour grapes. Consequently he will destroy the vineyard. This theme of judgment accompanies virtually every use of this imagery in the Old Testament.

Therefore, when Jesus refers to himself as the true vine (v. 1) he is once again taking an image for Israel and applying it to himself. Jesus himself is true Israel (cf. Hoskyns 1940b:560; Pryor 1992:124-31). This claim corresponds to his break with the temple at the end of chapter 8 and his forming a renewed people that began in chapter 9 and came clearly to the fore in chapter 10. Israel's place as the people of God is now taken by Jesus and his disciples, the vine and its branches. This is not a rejection of Judaism as such, but its fulfillment in its Messiah. The identification of the people of God with a particular nation is now replaced with a particular man who incorporates in himself the new people of God composed of Jews and non-Jews. Israel as the vine of God planted in the Promised Land is now replaced by Jesus, the true vine, and thus the people of God are no longer associated with a territory (Burge 1994). Jesus' corporate significance has been included throughout the Gospel in his use of the term Son of Man, so it is perhaps significant that the image of the vine and that of the Son of Man are identified together in Psalm 80:14b-16: "Watch over this vine, the root your right hand has planted, the son [ben; cf. LXX: hyion anthropou, `son of man'] you have raised up for yourself."Given this strong association of the vine with Israel, when Jesus refers to himself as the vine that is true he signals a contrast between himself and the official Judaism as represented in the Jewish leaders who have rejected him and thus cut themselves off from him and his Father. The role of the Father as the gardener (v. 1) continues the theme of Jesus' dependence on and subordination to the Father (cf. 14:28) and also emphasizes again the contrast between Jesus' relationship with God and that of his opponents. The specific focus, however, is on the branches, who are in intimate contact with Jesus (v. 2). There is no real parallel to this specific use of the image of the vine and the branches elsewhere (cf. Behm 1965). This passage, then, uses imagery that speaks of Jesus' identity over against official Judaism, but it uses the imagery to address issues within the new community rather than between the community and their Jewish opponents.

The new community has been established and now must bear fruit for God, in contrast to Israel and its fruitlessness. As among the people of Israel, so among Jesus' disciples, there are those who bear fruit and those who do not (v. 2). What is this fruit? Some scholars suggest Jesus is referring to the fruit that comes from bearing witness to Jesus, that is, converts, the fruit of evangelism. At least twice in John the image of bearing fruit is used with something like this meaning (4:35-38; 12:24). Other scholars interpret this fruit as being the ethical virtues characteristic of the Christian life (for example, Morris 1971:670). But something more basic, something that underlies both missionary work and ethical virtues, seems to be intended. The development of the image in the next section (vv. 7-17) suggests that bearing fruit refers to the possession of the divine life itself and especially the chief characteristics of that life, knowledge of God (cf. 15:15) and love (15:9-14). Jesus says when they bear much fruit they demonstrate that they are his disciples (15:8), and elsewhere he states love the evidence that one is a disciple (13:35; 14:21, 23) and is in union with God and with one another (17:21-23). Thus, the image of fruit symbolizes that which is at the heart of both Christian witness and ethics--union with God.

As it is the Father who draws people to Jesus (6:44), so it is the Father who cuts off (airei) those who do not bear fruit and who prunes (kathairei, "cleans"; cf. the NIV footnote) those who do bear fruit. In a sense, these two activities summarize chapter 13, with the cutting off of Judas (13:21-30) and the cleansing of the disciples (13:10; cf. Michaels 1989:271). All judgment is in the hands of the Father, both among Christ's disciples and those outside that community. Indeed, some would see the persons referred to in verse 2 as ones outside the community of Christ. Those who believe that "true disciples are preserved to the end" (Carson 1991:515, citing Jn 6:37-40; 10:28) assume that the disciple in verse 2 is not a true disciple, since a true disciple will persevere to the end (Carson 1980:97-98). "Many are reckoned by men's opinions to be in the vine who in fact have no root in the vine" (Calvin 1959:94). But Jesus does not say "those who appear to be in me" but every branch in me. It will not do to collapse the antinomies of Scripture. "How a man can be `in Christ,' and yet afterwards separate himself from Him, is a mystery neither greater nor less than that involved in the fall of a creature created innocent" (Westcott 1908:2:198). The believer's assurance is not in the decision to follow Jesus, but in the graciousness and faithfulness of the Father and the Son (see comment on 6:37). Though God allows us to reject him, his own disposition toward us is love, a love that continues to pursue even those who reject him (see comment on 13:26). Those who are worried about the assurance of their salvation should find comfort in the character and actions of God. Our fretting over ourselves is itself a preoccupation with self that must be pruned away, for it inhibits our relation with God, our bearing of the fruit of eternal life.

Since fruit refers to sharing in the life of God and the activities that naturally come to expression when that life is present, this cutting off follows by definition. It is impossible to be united to God and remain ignorant of him and not manifest his own characteristic love. In such a case the branch is cut off and cast out to be burned (v. 6). The reference to being cast out (eblethe exo; thrown away in the NIV, v. 6) may point to excommunication from the community, but the actual practice in 1 John does not seem to present active excommunication on the part of the community--the antichrists seem to leave on their own (1 Jn 2:19). Obviously they would not leave without reason. Most likely John showed clearly the errors of their ways and wanted them to accept his teaching, but they eventually withdrew instead. Thus, the way the cutting off appears to take place in the Johannine community is the same way the judgment takes place in the Gospel, namely, the light shines and does its own work of separation.

Jesus' disciples have been cleansed by his word, and they will be cleansed in the future (15:2-3). This word refers to all that Jesus taught, his entire message (logos), conveyed by both word and action. This revelation centers on the same two foci mentioned with regard to bearing fruit--knowledge of God in the Son and the love command--the foci being united, for God is love. This knowledge and this love do not characterize the disciples right then, but will "on that day" (14:20-21), after the glorification of Jesus. But something related to this later state must now characterize them since Jesus has already said they are all clean except Judas (v. 3; cf. 13:10). Indeed, if they were not clean, they could not come into the divine presence, yet it is said that they are in Christ. Perhaps what they have is the vague outline of this knowledge and love, which will later be filled in by the Spirit. They certainly believe Jesus is come from God, even though their continued ignorance is quite evident here in the farewell discourse. More obvious is their love for Jesus, mostly evidenced in their willingness to lay down their lives for him. That they came to Jerusalem is evidence of this willingness (11:16), and it is stated explicitly by Peter (13:37). They are not yet capable of such love when things get bleak, but at least they have the desire to be loyal. Such adherence to Jesus on a social level is analogous to the coming internal co-inherence referred to in this figure of the vine. Their humility in accepting Jesus, along with his cryptic sayings and deeds, and their willingness to die with him, even though this willingness is weaker than they realize, manifest the love that is crucial for remaining in Jesus. They still have much in their lives that is not in keeping with the life of God. Such false growths need to be pruned away so God's eternal life might grow and increase in their lives. Part of the good news is that the Father undertakes such pruning in the life of each disciple. The discipline may be painful (cf. Heb 12:4-11) as the life of self and rebellion is cut away, but the result will be untold blessing for the disciple and for others through him or her. The Father's pruning is for the sake of growth, which suggests the eternal life is a very dynamic reality.

Jesus stresses the impossibility of producing this fruit apart from him (vv. 4-5). People are able to produce much without God, including converts, good deeds and even prophesies, exorcisms and miracles (cf. Mt 7:22-23; Ridderbos 1997:517). But the divine life such as we see in Jesus is dependent on God's own character, power and guidance at work in the life of the disciple. Jesus did not will nor speak nor act from himself; neither is the branch capable of bearing fruit "from itself" (v. 4, aph' heautou; NIV reads by itself). Hence Jesus' command to remain in me (v. 4).

The second part of this sentence is probably also a command. The Greek simply says, "Remain in me, and I in you"; the verb is left out of the second half. The NIV supplies a future and I will remain in you, which is a valid option. But the parallelism in verse 5 suggests that here also the two sides are balanced, and thus the dwelling of Christ in the believer is also an imperative (Barrett 1978:474). "In one sense the union itself, even the abiding of Christ, is made to depend upon the will of the believer" (Westcott 1908:2:199). At this point the vine imagery breaks down, since branches do not have consciousness and will. But the point is clear enough, for throughout this Gospel the human and the divine work together. The Father prunes and cleanses, and the Son has cleansed by his word, showing the Son's oneness with the Father (cf. Chrysostom In John 76.1). But the disciples themselves must make an effort to remain. Remaining is not simply believing in him, though that is crucial, but includes being in union with him, sharing his thoughts, emotions, intentions and power. In a relationship both parties must be engaged. The divine must take the initiative and provide the means and the ability for the union to take place, but it cannot happen without the response of the disciple.

The consequence of remaining is the bearing of much fruit (v. 5), but the consequence of not remaining is being cast out, withered, gathered and burned. This may be a reference to eschatological judgment (cf. 5:29), using imagery common in the Old Testament and Judaism (cf. Lang 1968:936-40) and in the Synoptics (for example, Mt 3:10 par. Lk 3:9; Mt 7:19; 13:40; Mk 9:43; cf. Lang 1968:942-46). Ezekiel 15 is especially relevant because it speaks of God's judgment against Jerusalem, his vine. The wood of the vine is useless except as fuel for a fire (Ezek 15:1-8). As Ezekiel shows, the image can refer to God's judgment whenever it takes place, not just at the end of time. Since John does not use such imagery elsewhere to refer to the final judgment, the reference here is probably not to the final judgment and hell (Beasley-Murray 1987:273). For John "it was punishment enough to be separated from Christ and God and therefore exposed to `withering' and death" (Schnackenburg 1982:101). The casting out "happens simultaneously with the cessation of the vital union with Christ. It is not a future consequence, as at the last judgement, but an inevitable accompaniment of the separation" (Westcott 1908:2:200). Such separation from God, the source of all light and life and love, is the essence of all judgment, whether eschatological or not. The ones who are so judged in this passage are those who have refused to remain in Christ. Like the opponents throughout the Gospel, they have rejected Jesus and thereby turned their backs on God and thus life itself. Their former intimacy with Jesus, such as it was, makes their rejection all the more worthy of judgment.

7If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
9"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. 11I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command. 15I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit--fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 17This is my command: Love each other.

John 15:7-17


Jesus Applies His Teaching on the Vine and the Branches (15:7-17)

Jesus now explains more of what it means to remain in him (v. 4). This section forms a chiastic pattern (Brown 1970:667), with Jesus' teaching (vv. 7, 17) and the promise of answered prayer (vv. 7, 16) forming the two ends and Jesus' joy at the midpoint (v. 11). Themes from throughout the farewell discourse are woven together within this carefully constructed exposition of the image of the vine (Brown 1970:666).

The first section (vv. 7-10) draws out once again the relation between love and obedience (cf. 14:21, 23-24) and views this relation in light of the theme of mutual indwelling. Jesus' dwelling in the believer is now referred to as his words remaining in them (v. 7). If they remain in him and his words in them, Jesus promises their prayers will be answered (v. 7; cf. 14:13-14; 15:16; 16:23-24, 26). To have his words remaining in them means to share his mind and his will. They are to be caught up into his own focus on the doing of God's will. Accordingly, they will pray for his purposes rather than for their own selfish desires. Jesus' purposes have been to reveal God and share his life and love so people will be brought into union with him in his new community. Such will be the concerns also of the disciples who have Jesus' words in them, and God will answer their prayers as they live according to their life in Christ and his life in them.

They bear the fruit of this shared life, which is evidence that they are Jesus' disciples (v. 8), unlike others who claim to believe but do not (2:23-24; 8:31). Since the fruit refers to the knowledge and love of God, it follows that as the disciples produce fruit the Father is glorified (v. 8; cf. 13:31-32; 14:13; 17:1, 4). The glory of the Father is Jesus' chief delight and has been the focus of all he has said and done. Since the disciples are now going to live in union with Christ, the Father's glory will be the goal of their lives as well.

The other side of the mutual indwelling is the disciples' remaining in Christ (vv. 4, 7), which is now described as their remaining in his love (v. 9). Jesus describes this love as like the love with which his Father has loved him (v. 9; cf. 17:23). The Father is the source and pattern of all love, so, as always, Jesus is doing that which he receives from the Father. Jesus' disciples must remain in his love (cf. 13:1, 34; 14:21), and they do this by obeying his commands (v. 10). In part this means they are to remain in Jesus' love for them, but further it means they must remain in his own love for the Father. Jesus' own love for the Father was seen in his obeying the Father's commands and remaining in his love (v. 10). For the disciples to remain in Jesus' love for the Father, therefore, they must share in Jesus' obedience. Their obedience is itself the fruit of their remaining in Jesus because it is a characteristic of his love (1 Jn 2:5-6).

Jesus has spoken about love and obedience that they might share in his own joy (v. 11). As his word remains in them through their obedience they are actually sharing in his life with the Father, which is characterized not only by obedience, but also by joy. The Jewish delight in God's law (Ps 1:2; 119:14) is here fulfilled in sharing in Jesus' own obedience to the Father. Indeed, the joy in God's salvation, both in past events and in the future, ultimate salvation, referred to in the Old Testament and later Jewish texts (Conzelmann 1974b:362-66), finds its completion here in Jesus' joy. But joy is not what springs to mind for many people when they think of obedience. They see obedience as conforming to rules, which produces drudgery or chaffing. Rules often induce guilt in those not keeping them and a prideful delight in those who do obey. But the obedience Jesus is talking about is an obedience not to societal rules, but to the Father who is all love. To obey him is to conform one's life to the very pattern of God's own life. Such obedience shares in his life, which is characterized by harmony, grace, goodness and beauty. We are in intimate union with him and swept up into his dance for which we were created and which brings the deepest fulfillment and deepest joy to our lives. Jesus' joy came from such intimacy with the Father and his delight to do that which pleases the one who is all love and goodness. Jesus is showing how our joy may be complete. If we have no joy in obeying the Father, then we should consider whether we know him as Jesus knows him and whether we understand his will as the description of our true freedom (8:31-36) and joy. Indeed, we might ask ourselves what does bring us joy. The answer will reveal to us our own hearts.Jesus loves just as the Father loves (v. 9), and he commands his disciples to love one another just as he has loved them (v. 12). Thus, the community is characterized by divine love. If this love were just a feeling, such a command would be impossible to fulfill. But the love Jesus refers to is an act based in a certain state of heart. Specifically, it is the laying down of one's life based on willing the good of the other. By God's grace we can indeed choose to will the good of the other, and we can choose to act accordingly. This is the love Christians are called to in Christ, for Jesus says we are to love one another just as he has loved us, which he immediately defines in terms of laying down of one's life for one's friends (v. 13; cf. 10:14-15, 18; 13:34, 37; 14:31).

The word for friends, philoi, is related to a verb meaning "love" (phileo) and conveys a greater sense of intimacy than does our modern use of friend, though our word is actually related to the Anglo-Saxon verb freon, "to love" (Brown 1970:664). The idea that one should lay down one's life for one's friends was well known in the ancient world (for example, Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics 9.8; cf. Stahlin 1974:153). Jesus reveals that this human ideal is in accord with the divine ideal. It might be thought that laying down one's life for one's enemies is a greater love. Jesus does indeed have such love for his enemies (see comments on 5:5; 6:51; 13:21-26), but the focus in the present setting is on the disciples and their change of status from slaves to friends.

Jesus says his friends are those who obey him (v. 14). This is not a definition of friendship itself, but it follows in this instance given who Jesus is; just as love for the Father and the Son involves obedience, so does friendship. All this talk about obedience seems more fitting for a master-slave relationship, but Jesus no longer calls them slaves (douloi) but friends (v. 15). This does not mean that the relation of slave is not also appropriate for Jesus' disciples (cf. 13:16; 15:20). Paul refers to himself as a slave (doulos) five times, though he also notes that in some senses the Christian is no longer a slave (Gal 4:7). Even the worshipers in the heavenly city at the end, who will reign for ever and ever, are called God's slaves (Rev 22:3, 6). So although the idea of slave is valid, it is limited. Jesus' point here is intimacy.

His disciples are his friends because he has made known to them everything he heard from his Father (v. 15). The disciples thereby fulfill the ideal of Abraham and Moses. Abraham was called God's friend (2 Chron 20:7; Is 41:8), and he was one from whom God did not keep secret his plan for Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 18:17). Moses likewise was God's friend, for "the Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend" (Ex 33:11; cf. Deut 34:10). The opponents in this Gospel have exalted ideas of Moses and Abraham (chaps. 5, 8), based in part on such texts. But such intimacy with God is now open to all in Christ. For Jesus fulfills the role of Wisdom, which "passes into holy souls from age to age and produces friends of God and prophets" (Wisdom of Solomon 7:27).

Jesus says he has kept nothing hidden (v. 15), an important claim for the all-sufficiency of Jesus' revelation of the Father. All that belongs to the Father belongs to Jesus (16:15; 17:10), and he has passed it all on to his disciples. There is nothing more to be known about the Father apart from Jesus and his revelation. We await no new revelation to reveal more of God, nor do we need to search the world's religions and philosophies to fill in gaps in Jesus' revelation. Study of other religions and philosophies can be valuable, but all the truths of God present in them, such as the ideal of self-sacrifice just noted, are recognized to be true by their congruence with Jesus. Here we have the exclusivist claims of Christianity at full strength.

Jesus has been discussing love and intimacy, but that does not mean that his disciples' relationship with him has somehow become that of equals (rightly, Bultmann 1971:544; Haenchen 1984:132). The relationship between Jesus and his disciples includes friendship, but is far more intimate than friendship. Nevertheless, he is always the Lord. They did not choose him, but he chose them (v. 16; cf. 6:70; 13:18; 15:19). This is not a reference to salvation, but rather to service, since the rest of the verse speaks of being appointed . . . to go and bear fruit (Beasley-Murray 1987:275). If this fruit is eternal life, which is knowledge of God and sharing in his love (cf. comment on 15:2), then Jesus is saying he chose and appointed his disciples to go and manifest the life of God. The primary expression of this fruit that Jesus speaks of here is the love within the Christian community. The fruit that remains is thus the love that flows from, and bears witness to, life in union with God. This love has come into the world in Jesus and now is to remain in the world in the community of his disciples. This divine love manifested within the church will bear witness to Jesus before the world (17:21, 23), which will enable some to find eternal life and will also reveal the judgment of those who reject it.

The result of such fruit bearing, of living in union with God and sharing in his love, will be answered prayer (v. 16). Prayer in Jesus' name is prayer that is in union with him and in keeping with his character and his purposes (see comment on 14:13). Thus, while the disciples themselves must go and bear fruit or risk being cut off (v. 6), they have the assurance that Jesus has chosen and appointed them for this activity and that the Father will answer their prayers. These assurances correspond to the fact that apart from Jesus the disciples can do nothing (v. 5). A person's sharing in the divine life begins and continues only by God's gracious activity. The grace of God that has characterized Jesus' life and ministry will continue to characterize the life and ministry of his disciples.

The reference to Jesus' command in the final verse (v. 17) picks up the reference both to Jesus' words (v. 7) and to his command (v. 12), thus tying the unit together. Obedience to Jesus' command is the evidence that we love him (vv. 9-10), and the content of his command turns out to be love. This final reference to love for one another ties together this passage and provides a striking contrast to what immediately follows--Jesus' description of the world's hatred of the disciples. Jesus has been speaking of the enormous blessings of knowing and loving God in a community of love. However, the church is not to be an isolated hothouse, but a garden in the midst of the world.

The World Hates the Disciples

18"If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.'[2] If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me. 22If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin. 23He who hates me hates my Father as well. 24If I had not done among them what no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen these miracles, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. 25But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: 'They hated me without reason.'[3]
26"When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. 27And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.

John 15:18-27


Jesus Explains the Source of the World's Hatred of His Disciples (15:18-25)

Jesus relates what he has experienced to what the disciples will now experience (vv. 18-20). The rejection of Jesus by his opponents has been based in their alienation from God. Jesus now refers to them as the world, since the world is that which is in rebellion against God. The disciples would face rejection by Gentiles as well (cf. Tacitus Annals 15.44; Suetonius Nero 16), but at the moment Jesus has Jewish opposition in mind (16:2). Since the disciples are members of Christ like branches are members of a vine, they receive what he receives--both the sunshine and rain of the love of the Father and the storms of the hatred of those who are in rebellion against the Father.

The disciples are included in the world's hatred of Jesus because, like him, they are not of this world (v. 19; cf. 8:23; Neyrey 1988). They are Jesus' friends (philoi, 15:14-15), and thus they are not loved (ephilei) by the world. Jesus has chosen them (exelexamen) and appointed that they to go bear fruit (15:16), and this commission was based on a more fundamental act that he now refers to as choosing them (exelexamen) out of the world. They have been transferred to Jesus' kingdom, which is not of this world (18:36). The world's hatred of them, therefore, is an encouragement to the disciples since it is due to the difference Jesus has made within them. This does not mean the world has no hatred for others besides Christians. Nor does it mean that someone who is hated by the world is necessarily being true to God. But Jesus does say that those who are his disciples are quite distinct from all that is in rebellion against God and should not be surprised when opposition arises.Jesus refers his disciples back to his saying, "No servant is greater than his master" (v. 20; cf. 13:16). Earlier Jesus was referring to his example of humility in washing their feet. Now this saying applies to his humility in undergoing persecution by the world, even to the point of death. Here we see the incredible humility of the master, who is Lord of all. If humility is appropriate for a slave, how much more for a slave of such a master. Jesus concentrates on two items of comparison in particular--persecution and obedience to his teaching. While Jesus' statement if they obeyed my teaching could refer to those who did in fact do so, the present context is focused on rejection (vv. 20, 21), so the idea is probably more like "they will follow your teaching as little as they have followed mine" (NEB). Thus, the disciples are rejected not only because they are not of this world, but also because they are proclaiming a message (cf. v. 27). The present text shows the disciples in the role of prophets, meeting the prophets' fate. As the Lord told Ezekiel, "The house of Israel is not willing to listen to you because they are not willing to listen to me, for the whole house of Israel is hardened and obstinate" (Ezek 3:7). There has been plenty of such hardness within the church as well.

Jesus summarizes his point thus far by saying, They will treat you this way because of my name (v. 21). His name refers to his identity and his character as it is made manifest (see comment on 1:12). But Jesus cannot be understood apart from the Father, so he concludes that the reason they reject him is their ignorance of the One who sent me. Here is the core problem (cf. 5:37-38; 7:28; 8:19, 47, 55), which introduces the main point of the rest of this section (vv. 22-25). Jesus has been speaking of the connection between the treatment he has experienced and that of his disciples. Now he focuses on his own ministry and its relation to the Father.

His central assertion is that this ignorance of the Father is culpable because of the witness he has borne in word and deed. He has spoken to them the words of the Father himself (14:10-11) and shown them the deeds of the Father (5:19, 30), deeds unlike anyone else's (v. 24). If he had not spoken and acted thus they would not be guilty of sin (vv. 22, 24). The text says literally, "they would not have sin" (hamartia). Hamartia can refer to guilt, but here the reference is more likely to sin itself. For in John's Gospel sin is understood as lack of faith in Jesus, that is, hatred of him and his Father (Michaels 1989:276). The opponents do not think they hate God, but such is the case given their hatred of Jesus (vv. 23-24). "This hatred is the human `no' to the divine `yes' expressed in the mission of his Son" (Ridderbos 1997:525).

The disciples are actually experiencing the deep-seated rebellion of sinful humanity against the Father himself. The conflict they experience is a part of something much bigger than themselves. Sometimes Christians today say they are being persecuted for the sake of God, when in fact they are being rejected merely because they are obnoxious. But many Christians are indeed undergoing the most horrid persecution and suffering for the Name. Jesus' words of encouragement here speak directly to his disciples in such situations. He gives them the larger perspective, helping them understand that what they are going through is part of the world's rejection of the Father and the Son.

Such suffering is not outside God's providential care. It corresponds to a pattern found in Scripture, which is what fulfill means here (v. 25). The rejection of Jesus and his disciples is found in the very law to which those rejecting them claim to be loyal, thus further demonstrating their culpability. The passage cited, They hated me without reason, is probably either Psalm 35:19 or 69:4. The latter may be more likely because it is referred to so often in the New Testament, being quoted or directly alluded to seventeen times in all. In either case the innocent psalmist is complaining to God about his persecutors. So Jesus is not just using a convenient proof text but making connection with an important type. He is using Scripture to assure his disciples that they should not be surprised by what he is experiencing nor by what they themselves will experience. God is in control.

Thus Jesus is giving the disciples two grounds for assurance, himself and the Scriptures. They should look to him for his example and for what he has said to them. They also gain confidence through what they find in the Old Testament, understood in relation to Jesus (v. 25). The Scriptures in general, and the Gospels in particular, continue to play such a role in the lives of faithful disciples today.

Jesus Says the Paraclete and the Disciples Will Bear Witness to Him (15:26-27)

From his own witness and that of Scripture Jesus now returns to the witness of the Paraclete and his disciples. The witness of the Paraclete and the disciples stands in marked contrast to the rejection by the world, confirming the fact that Jesus and those associated with him are not of this world. Referring to the Paraclete as the Spirit of truth (v. 26) provides yet another contrast with the world, which has rejected Jesus out of error.

Jesus says he will send the Paraclete from the Father (v. 26), thus affirming both that the Paraclete is associated in a primary way with the Father and that the Son is involved in his historical mission (14:26; 16:7). Then Jesus refers to the Paraclete as the one who goes out from the Father (v. 26). The meaning of this line has been the source of enormous controversy right down to today. Many Western Christians would say the going out is another way of referring to the historical mission of the Paraclete. The Eastern church, on the other hand, sees this as referring to the eternal relations within the Godhead: this procession of the Spirit is not into history; it is the coming forth of the Spirit from the Father from all eternity. The Son is God begotten, the Spirit is God proceeding, and the Father is the one source of both.

The Father as the one ultimate source of all is true to the thought of this Gospel and the rest of Scripture, but it is doubtful that this verse is dealing in its primary sense with the eternal relations between the Father and the Spirit. The word used for from (para) does not denote source in this sense. Indeed, the line in the Nicene Creed referring to the eternal relations is "I believe in the Holy Spirit . . . who proceeds from (ek) the Father." The Greek fathers who refer to the eternal procession use ek and even change para to ek when referring to verse 26 in this connection (Westcott 1908:2:213). Furthermore, the language in our verse (para) is used elsewhere in John to describe Jesus' coming forth from the Father on his mission within history, though with a different verb (16:27; 17:8). Thus, the going out probably also refers to the historical mission of the Spirit. Jesus repeats the thought in this way to emphasize that the Spirit is from the Father--that is, like Jesus himself, he is not of this world.

The Paraclete is going to testify about Jesus (v. 26). Because he is being sent to the disciples--whom I will send to you--it would seem his testimony is to the disciples, who in turn will testify before the world. Further details about the Paraclete's testimony will be given shortly (16:8-15), but first the testimony of the disciples themselves is introduced.

The disciples were chosen out of the world (v. 19) and are now said to be witnesses because they have been with Jesus from the beginning (v. 27), referring to the beginning of his ministry. This implies Jesus is speaking primarily to the eleven in these chapters. They have been along for the whole trip so they can tell the whole story (cf. Acts 1:21-22). Because the Gospel is not just an abstract message but an account of what God himself has done and said as he was incarnate, history matters enormously and the role of eyewitnesses is crucial. "The New Testament is . . . neither a collection of thoughtful essays nor an attempt to construct a system of ethics. It bears witness to a unique history, and it discovers the truth in the history. . . . The fourth Gospel persuades and entices the reader to venture a judgement upon the history" (Hoskyns and Davey 1947:181). The Gospel of John is itself a primary example of the witness referred to in verse 27. The eyewitness testimony is now available through the New Testament, which is foundational and is the criterion of all claims to bear witness to Christ.

These two verses, then, introduce the offense which the disciples are to wage in the face of the world's hatred and persecution, with the disciples' giving voice to the Paraclete's witness against the world (Brown 1970:698).

John 16

1"All this I have told you so that you will not go astray. 2They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. 3They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. 4I have told you this, so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you. I did not tell you this at first because I was with you.

John 16:1-4


Jesus Refers Directly to the Jewish Persecution of His Disciples (16:1-4)

The general description of conflict (15:18-27) is now spelled out more specifically, beginning with the topic of persecution. Jesus warns that expulsion from the synagogue and even death awaits the disciples (16:2; cf. Mt 10:17, 21 par. Mk 13:9, 12 par. Lk 21:12, 16). Such martyrdom began with Stephen (Acts 7:54-60) and continued on a local basis (Acts 12:1-2; 14:5, 19; 18:12; 22:4; 26:10; 2 Cor 11:23-25; Rev 2:13; Josephus Antiquities of the Jews 20.200; Justin Martyr Dialogue with Trypho the Jew 95.4, 133.6; Martyrdom of Polycarp 13.1). The expulsion from the synagogue also occurred on a local basis and then more widely late in the first century (see comment on 9:22).

Jesus' opponents are about to put him to death for the sake of what they believe to be God's truth and honor. The same fate awaits his followers, since the one who kills his disciples will think he is offering a service to God (v. 2). The word service (latreia) refers to religious service. A later Jewish text says, "if a man sheds the blood of the wicked it is as though he had offered a sacrifice" (Midrash Rabbah on Num 21:3; cf. b. Sanhedrin 9:6). Such a view is quite understandable among those who believe they have received the revelation of the truth, which includes most, if not all, the major religions. Such killing is against the teaching of Jesus and the New Testament, but this has not stopped such activity in the name of Christ.

The opponents' zeal is itself commendable (cf. Rom 10:2), but because it is directed against Jesus and his followers, it simply bears further witness to their alienation from God. That is, Jesus and John agree with their Jewish opponents that God has revealed himself--there is revealed truth to live and die for, truth that distinguishes those who are of God and those who are against him. But they disagree about the locus of this truth. Jesus says they are doing these things because they have not known the Father or me (v. 3; cf. 15:21, 23). So the knowledge of the Father and the Son, which is the very source of the disciples' joy and peace, is also the cause of their troubles in the world.

Jesus tells them about these troubles ahead of time so they will not go astray (v. 1; cf. 13:19). This verb (skandalizo) does not refer to making a mistake but to something preventing one's progress, in this case a falling away (Stahlin 1971:345). Earlier, when the disciples had grumbled over a hard saying, Jesus used this same word when he said, "Does this offend you?" (6:61). The teaching did offend them, and "many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him" (6:66). Such a falling away is what Jesus wants to prevent by warning them of persecution. When the hard times come they should stick with him, just as these eleven did when the hard sayings hit them (6:67-68). These are the ones who have received Jesus' words, and they are to remember these words (16:4) so they do not fall away.

Disciples today also need to receive deeply the teachings of Christ and his apostles in order to be ready for times of persecution or temptation. Jesus here provides an example of pastoral care. It is part of the pastor's duty to ensure that God's people receive such preparation so they will continue on the pilgrim way and not fall away or otherwise get blocked along the way.

The Work of the Holy Spirit

5"Now I am going to him who sent me, yet none of you asks me, 'Where are you going?' 6Because I have said these things, you are filled with grief. 7But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt[1] in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: 9in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; 10in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.
12"I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. 15All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.

John 16:5-15


Jesus Explains the Twofold Work of the Paraclete in More Detail (16:4-15)

Jesus now comes to his final teaching about the Paraclete. Jesus' departure, the talk of which has caused the disciples so much distress, is necessary in order that the Paraclete might come (vv. 4b-7). When the Paraclete does come he will continue the work of revelation begun in Jesus, both his judgment of the world (vv. 8-11) and the revelation of God to the disciples (vv. 12-15).

Jesus has been speaking of his departure, the persecution the disciples will soon meet and the coming of the Paraclete. These topics were not part of his teaching from the beginning because he was still with them (v. 4). His revelation has unfolded as was appropriate at the various stages of his ministry. Now that he is about to depart to the Father he is preparing them for what comes next, both the blessing and the danger.

He upbraids them for not asking where he is going (v. 5). This is puzzling because Peter had already done exactly that (13:36) and Thomas also had expressed ignorance of where Jesus was going (14:5). This could be a seam in the garment of the Gospel (see comment on 14:31; Brown 1970:710). If this is not a seam, then there must be some distinction between Peter's question and what Jesus is referring to here. Perhaps Peter's earlier question was not really a serious one, since he was immediately distracted from it and did not follow up on it (Morris 1971:695-96). Or perhaps the clue is in the present tense--none of them asks him. They had asked earlier, but now they are grieving instead of asking (v. 6; Barrett 1978:485). Perhaps Jesus is saying that they lack trust, that they are grieving when they should be taking into account where he is going (Calvin 1959:115).

Whatever the solution, the main point as it now stands is the disciples' focus on themselves rather than on Jesus. Earlier Jesus had said it is a blessing for him to return to the Father (14:28). Now he adds that it is also for their good that he is going away, for then he will send the Paraclete (v. 7). The Spirit is already present (see comment on 16:25), but Jesus cannot send the Spirit in his role as Paraclete until he himself has returned to the Father. Why is this? Earlier John had explained that the Spirit was not yet given because Jesus "had not yet been glorified" (7:39). Jesus' glorification is his death, resurrection and ascension to the Father, and these provide both the climax of his revelation and a testimony to the truth of his life and teaching. The role of the Spirit is to interpret and bear witness to Jesus and his revelation of the Father (vv. 12-15). So until Jesus has completed his revelation, the Spirit is not able to do his job, for he does not have the full revelation to work with.

Thus it is better for the disciples that Jesus go, because this will be the completion of his own work on their behalf (and on behalf of the whole world) and because he will then send the Paraclete, who will lead them into all that Jesus has revealed. But more is involved since this work of the Paraclete is not simply intellectual. The Paraclete is the Spirit of God, and union with God is accomplished by being born of the Spirit (3:5). Thus, the Spirit will deepen their knowledge of the Father through the Son in the sense of both understanding and relationship. Through the Spirit the disciples will share in the very life of God that they have seen in Jesus. Their intimacy with Jesus himself will be far deeper than before. This union with God is accomplished by Jesus' glorification, and thus the glorification must take place before the sending of the Paraclete.

The coming of the Paraclete is not some automatic, impersonal response. He is personally sent by Jesus, and he is sent not to the world but to the disciples (v. 7; 14:17). Before explaining further what the Paraclete will do for the disciples, Jesus describes the effect that the Paraclete's presence among and within the disciples will have on the world (vv. 8-11). When the Paraclete comes to the disciples he will convict the world (v. 8). In the New Testament this word (elencho) means "to show someone his sin and to summon him to repentance" (Büchsel 1964:474). The emphasis can be on either exposing (cf. 3:20) or condemning and convicting (cf. 8:46). As we will see, the exposure of the the truth about the world is clearly in view in our present passage. Whether Jesus is also saying that the world will be convicted by this revelation is not clear, though certainly some within the world will be convicted since the disciples' witness will be received by at least some (17:20).

There are three parts to the exposure of the world's errors (v. 8). First, the world is wrong about sin because it does not believe in Jesus (v. 9). Here, as throughout this section (15:18--16:15), the Jewish opponents are understood as representing the world. The opponents had condemned Jesus as a sinner, which is both explicitly stated (9:16, 24) and implicit in all their accusations. But they are really the ones who are guilty before God, because the work of God is to believe in the one whom he sent (6:29) and rejecting Jesus is the most basic sin (1:11; 3:19; 5:45-47; 8:24; 15:22).

Second, the world is wrong about righteousness because Jesus is going to the Father (v. 10). The word righteousness (dikaiosyne) probably includes its sense of "justice." His opponents did not judge with right judgment (7:24), and this is seen especially in their condemnation of Jesus for his claim to be God's Son (19:7). Jesus' return to the Father will expose their justice as unjust. Jesus adds, "And you will no longer see me" (paraphrased in the NIV), which reinforces it is to the disciples advantage that Jesus go to the Father (v. 7).

Third, the world is wrong about judgment because the prince of this world now stands condemned (v. 11). The opponents had condemned Jesus, but the Paraclete will reveal that it was the evil one who was judged and condemned at Jesus' glorification. This judgment in turn condemns the world itself (12:31), since they have the devil for a father (8:44).

Each of these terms--sin, righteousness (or "justice") and judgment--were quite familiar to the Jewish opponents. But now they are redefined around Jesus: "Sin is rejecting Jesus; justice is what God has done for Jesus; judgment is what Jesus has accomplished already by his death" (Michaels 1989:283). The conflict with the Jewish opponents is therefore put in perspective. These opponents represent the world itself, that which is in rebellion against God. The conflict reflected in this rebellion is here seen in cosmic terms, with the Son of God and the prince of this world as the leading actors, each desiring the allegiance of the world. The main characteristics of each actor in the drama are here revealed: the world consists of all who fail to believe in Jesus, Jesus is known as the just or righteous one (cf. 1 Jn 2:1), and the devil is judged. Thus the Paraclete will reveal the verdict of the trial that has been in session throughout the Gospel.

The Paraclete exposes these realities to the disciples and to the world itself through the disciples (15:26-27). This witness will be through oral and written proclamation, of which this Gospel is itself a supreme example. But the primary witness will be in the quality of life that the Paraclete produces within the community as the new birth brings them into union with God. First (cf. v. 9), faith in Jesus brings a new freedom from sin (8:32-36; 1 Jn 1:5--2:2; 3:4-10), though not sinlessness apart from the cleansing of Jesus' blood (1 Jn 1:7-10). Second (cf. v. 10), they are able to live the pattern of righteousness and justice that was present in Jesus because they have his Spirit, which he sent to them after his return to the Father. The world may not see Jesus, but the disciples continue to be close to him (16:19). Third (cf. v. 11), the defeat of the evil one by Jesus is now evident in the lives of his disciples, who also overcome the evil one (1 Jn 2:13-14; 5:4).

More generally speaking, it is primarily the community's life together that witnesses to Jesus and, by the same token, exposes and condemns the world, in particular by their love (13:35) and unity (17:21). Such love and unity reveal that they are sharing in God's own life, and, consequently, their rejection and persecution show that the opponents are acting against God. The very judgment that Jesus brought into the world continues through his disciples and elicits the same hatred (7:7).

Jesus has been speaking to them of matters that were not appropriate to share earlier because the time was not right (vv. 4-5). Now he says there are still more things he has to say to them, but they are not yet ready to hear them (v. 12). Their grief makes it hard enough for them to follow what Jesus is saying. But on a deeper level, until the Spirit comes and they receive the new birth they will not be able to understand Jesus or the things of his otherworldly kingdom (3:3; 18:36; cf. 1 Cor 2:10-16). Jesus himself is passing on to them all that he has received from the Father (15:15), but they are not yet able to grasp it.

So the Paraclete will take over as their teacher and will enable them to grasp the richness of the revelation of Jesus. Jesus said earlier that the Paraclete will teach the disciples "all things" by reminding them of "everything I have said to you" (14:26). Now he develops this thought further when he says the Spirit of truth . . . will guide you into all truth (v. 13). Such guidance by God's Spirit is mentioned in the Old Testament (Ps 24:5 LXX; 142:10 LXX; Is 43:14 LXX) and is also associated with God's Wisdom (Wisdom of Solomon 9:11; 10:10, 17). But although the Spirit guides (hodegeo), it is Jesus who is the way (hodos) itself, indeed, the truth itself (14:6). So the Spirit will focus on the Son and will not speak on his own but will speak only what he hears (v. 13). The Son has done exactly the same with respect to the Father (3:32-34; 7:16-18; 8:26-29, 40; 12:47-50; 14:10; 15:15). The Son has revealed the Father, and now the Spirit will reveal the Father by revealing the Son.

When Jesus says all truth he does not appear to be referring to truth in all areas of knowledge, though indeed all truth is God's truth (see comment on 14:46). Rather, the Spirit is going to guide them into all the truth in Jesus, for he is going to glorify Jesus by taking from what is mine and making it known to you (v. 14). The reference is to insight regarding the historical ministry of Jesus (cf. 2:22; 12:16; 13:7; Brown 1970:714) and to a deeper understanding of who Jesus is and of his revelation of the Father. For all that belongs to the Father is mine (v. 15), and "everything that I have learned from my Father I have made known to you" (15:15). Jesus' knowledge of the Father is complete (cf. also 5:20; 17:10), and he has held back nothing from his disciples.

But the disciples cannot grasp much of this at this point, both because the ultimate revelation has not yet occurred, namely the crucifixion and resurrection and ascension, and because they have not yet entered into the divine life, the eternal life, through the new birth by the Spirit. But when the revelation is complete and when they do receive the Paraclete, he will guide them into all the truth that is in Jesus, which means all the truth of the Father. As always in this Gospel, the Father is the ultimate source and focus (v. 15). The Spirit will focus on the Son, who is focusing on the Father. Jesus' staggering claim to have complete knowledge of God is the foundation for the Christian claim that Jesus is the unique and only way to the Father. But how are we mere mortals to appropriate such knowledge of God? Jesus provides the way by sending the Spirit of God. The "all" of Jesus' revelation is matched by the "all" of the Paraclete's instruction, an instruction that is not merely cerebral, but that involves a sharing of the very life of God.

The passage's focus on Jesus helps us understand what Jesus means when he says the Paraclete will tell you what is yet to come (v. 13). This is often taken as a promise that the Paraclete will give the disciples predictions of the future, presumably at least what will take place in and through the church. Such prediction is indeed a divine activity (for example, Is 42:9; 44:7; 46:10; 48:14; see comment on Jn 13:19), but it is probably not what is referred to here since the idea of prediction does not fit this passage. The expression what is yet to come is paralleled in the next two verses by the phrase what is mine, suggesting the future events have to do with Jesus. The reference would be to the glorification--the crucifixion, resurrection and ascension--which still lies in the future at this point. This complex of events forms the climax of Jesus' revelation and thus will play a central role in the Paraclete's instruction of the disciples; he will glorify Jesus (v. 14) in large measure by declaring to them the truth revealed in Jesus' glorification.

So Jesus' promise is not of new revelation but of insight into the one revelation found in him. Throughout the history of the church, leaders within the church as well as groups on the fringes of Christianity have appealed to this passage to justify new teachings. Any such new teaching must, however, be true to the revelation received in Jesus. The flower will continue to unfold, but it must be the same flower--the genetic code must be the same. The Scriptures, including the apostolic witness of the New Testament, has been the touchstone for this continuity throughout the life of the church. Indeed, the present passage speaks primarily of that apostolic witness, since Jesus is promising this work of the Paraclete to those who have been with him from the beginning (15:27), whom the Paraclete can remind of what Jesus has done and said (14:26). The idea of further revelation to others besides the eleven is not here addressed (cf. Carson 1991:542).

16"In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me."

The Disciples' Grief Will Turn to Joy

17Some of his disciples said to one another, "What does he mean by saying, 'In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me,' and 'Because I am going to the Father'?" 18They kept asking, "What does he mean by 'a little while'? We don't understand what he is saying."
19Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, "Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, 'In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me'? 20I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. 21A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. 22So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. 23In that day you will no longer ask me anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 24Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.
25"Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father. 26In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. 27No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. 28I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father."
29Then Jesus' disciples said, "Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech. 30Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God."
31"You believe at last!"[2] Jesus answered. 32"But a time is coming, and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.
33"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."
John 16:16-33


Jesus Predicts Joy and Suffering (16:16-33)

The final part of the discourse directs the disciples' attention to what they are about to experience as a result of Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection. Soon their grief will be turned to joy (vv. 16-21) as they see him again (v. 22) and enter into a new level of intimacy in their relationship with the Son and the Father (vv. 23-28). The disciples respond with an affirmation of faith (vv. 29-30), but it is premature, for they have not yet encountered the greatest revelation or the greatest suffering (vv. 31-32). Jesus does not conclude on this down note, but instead he assures them of peace because he has conquered the world (v. 33).

Jesus Promises That After a Little While the Disciples' Grief Will Turn to Joy (16:16-21)


Earlier Jesus told the disciples he would be with them only a little longer (13:33) and encouraged them not to mourn. Now he points to the time in the future when their grief will be turned to joy. Earlier Jesus' statements had triggered questions by the disciples (13:36--14:8). His teaching on the Paraclete also raises questions, but instead of asking Jesus what he means, the disciples question one another (vv. 17-18). They want to ask him (v. 19) but hold back. Perhaps they despair of getting an answer that makes any sense. Throughout the Gospel Jesus has spoken cryptically, as he is about to admit (v. 25). And here in the farewell discourse he has piled on more lessons that are beyond their understanding at this point, as he is well aware (v. 12). The word used for asking (zeteo, v. 19) means to seek. The disciples are seeking insight in the wrong place, for they have no answers to offer one another.

He has been speaking of the Paraclete who will come to them, but he has also spoken of his own coming to them (14:3, 18-19, 23, 28). His focus on his going to the Father, combined with his statement that in a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me (v. 16), confuses them, especially the phrase a little while (mikron, v. 18). This Greek word is repeated seven times in these four verses (vv. 16-19), giving it great emphasis. This adds to the disciples' anxiety because they do not know what he is talking about, but it is clear that whatever he is speaking of is imminent. All they know is that something very big is about to happen that involves Jesus' departure from them.

Jesus is referring to his death and resurrection. A number of interpreters think the coming of the Spirit and Jesus' second coming are also included in his meaning, but the context suggests Jesus is describing the climactic events of his revelation, which will indeed literally take place in a little while. Jesus has just said that the Paraclete will tell the disciples "what is yet to come," which is a reference to his crucifixion and resurrection (v. 13). Now the explanation he offers (vv. 20-22) indicates that the resurrection will be the point at which he sees them again, the time when he inaugurates for the disciples a qualitatively new life and relationship with God (vv. 23-26).

Jesus' explanation begins with the solemn I tell you the truth (v. 20), literally, "amen, amen" (see note 1:51). It is certain that the disciples will weep and mourn (v. 20). The word mourn (threneo) clearly refers to grief at a death (cf. threnos, "dirge"). Weeping need not refer to grief at a death, but in John it is only used in such a context (11:31, 33; 20:11, 13, 15). Thus, Jesus is referring to the grief they suffer at his death. The world thinks it has conquered its enemy and rejoices. The disciples' grief will only last a little while and then will be turned to joy. The world and the disciples are utterly opposed, which means one will be grieved and the other filled with joy. These responses clarify which "coming" Jesus is referring to. Both the joy of the world and the grief-turned-joy of the disciples are more appropriate in response to Jesus' death and resurrection than in response to the coming of the Spirit or Jesus' second coming.

Before applying his point directly to the disciples Jesus uses an image to interpret their grief and its cause (v. 21). The pain a woman experiences at childbirth is predictable, brief (though it may not feel that way at the time) and followed by joy. It is predictable because it is following an established order. Jesus refers to the time of birth and its pains as her "hour" coming upon her (hora; NIV, time). Jesus has spoken throughout this Gospel of his own hour, meaning his death and the resurrection and new life that follows. So the theme of birth pangs and of new life entering the world speaks powerfully of the significance of what is now taking place in him and his disciples.

The disciples might have grasped something of this significance because the image of childbirth is used in the Old Testament to refer to God's actions. In particular it is used, with both its pain and joy, to refer to God's decisive future act of salvation (for example, Is 66:7-14; Brown 1970:731; Beasley-Murray 1987:285-86). Isaiah 26:16-21 even includes reference to resurrection of the dead and mentions the phrase "a little while," which itself is often used in such eschatological material (for example, Is 10:25; Jer 51:33; Beasley-Murray 1987:285-86). Such Old Testament material is also echoed in Jesus' reference to the woman's anguish, since that word (thlipsis) is often used of the tribulation that will come when God acts decisively (for example, Dan 12:1; Zeph 1:14-15, Brown 1987:285-86). So Jesus' imagery and language speak of God's climactic act of salvation. He is providing an interpretive framework in which the disciples can make sense out of what he and they are about to experience (Jn 16:33). They are in the midst of the event for which so many within Judaism were longing (cf. Lk 2:25, 38; 23:51; 24:21). The pain will be intense but limited. It will be what J. R. R. Tolkien labeled a "eucatastrophe," "the sudden joyous `turn'" in the midst of catastrophe, which is at the heart of the Gospel story (1965:68-73).

Jesus Describes the Reasons for the Joy That the Disciples Are About to Experience (16:22-28)

While the grief is already beginning, the joy is coming, for I will see you again (v. 22). Earlier Jesus had said that they would see him (vv. 16, 19), and now he says it is also he who will see them. Such a statement makes it clear that what they see will not be the result of some sort of inner experience with no objective grounds in Jesus himself, though it is not clear whether this is the intention of Jesus' words. At the least it encourages the disciples that they will once again be of interest and concern to him. This restored relationship is the cause of their joy. Because the relationship is secure so is the joy, even in the midst of the suffering that Jesus says is awaiting them (15:18--16:4). There will be those who want to take this joy from the disciples, but they will not be able to do so.

Their joy is primarily rooted in their restored relationship with Jesus, but there will be changes in that relationship. Something of these changes will become clear in the postresurrection encounters, but already Jesus refers to a change in their patterns of asking (vv. 23-26). There are two different Greek words translated ask in verse 23. One, erotao, can be used of asking for something but often is used for asking questions. The other, aiteo, usually refers to petitions. The NIV captures this distinction nicely, though the distinction is easily missed if one is not paying attention: you will no longer ask [erotao] me anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask [aiteo] in my name. By adding the words no longer (not found in the Greek) the NIV draws out the connection that exists with the context. The disciples have been asking Jesus a lot of questions in the farewell discourse, but they have not been petitioning him. Because erotao can refer to petitions it is possible that Jesus is only referring to this kind of question. But the context of the disciples' questions, combined with the solemn "amen, amen" that separates the two halves of the verse and the "and" (kai) that connects verse 23 to verse 22 (omitted in the NIV), suggests there are two types of asking in view.

Thus the first change of relationship that will be a source of joy is reflected in their no longer needing to ask Jesus questions (v. 23). This does not mean the disciples will have no questions in the future. We believers have plenty of them even now. But the things the disciples have been asking about will become clear once they see the Lord's death and resurrection and receive the help of the Paraclete to sort it all out (cf. 1 Jn 2:20). That is, the disciples will have an understanding of Jesus that gives them the heart of the truth. They may come up with interesting questions, some of which are inappropriate and thus not answered (21:21-22), but they will have all they need to live the divine life now made available.

The second change of relationship will be their sharing in Jesus' work as his friends (vv. 23-24). This is the reality behind Jesus' reference to asking the Father in his name (cf. 14:13; 15:7, 15). They have not asked in his name up to this point because they have not dwelt in him and he has not dwelt in them. This will soon change, and then they will share in the eternal life that Jesus has with the Father, which includes being taken into the work of God in the world. Such prayer is based on the love that is obedience (15:7-17; 1 Jn 3:22) and therefore is directed toward God's will being done and not toward one's own will apart from God (1 Jn 5:14-15). This work is the same as seen in Jesus and as described in regard to the Paraclete, namely, the revelation of the love of God in word and deed. This revelation will be manifest in each disciple's life and especially in the quality of life of the community as a whole. John later promotes such life in the community through sharing in the life that has been revealed, which brings fullness of joy (1 Jn 1:1-4).

These two types of asking, then, speak of the new intimacy with God that the disciples are about to experience. The communication will go both directions. The disciples will be able to hear from God with understanding, and they will be able to pray to God in accord with his own purposes (cf. Michaels 1989:287). The key to both types of communication is listening. Unless the disciple listens he or she will neither receive the insight into Jesus and his revelation nor be able to enter into God's purposes in prayer. Thus, at the center of the disciples' intimacy with God is the humility depicted throughout this Gospel. This humility is a docility and openness toward God that receives life from God and all the outworkings of that divine, eternal life.

Jesus then expounds on these aspects of the coming intimacy, returning first to the theme of future insight and knowledge. He says he has been speaking figuratively (v. 25). He is not referring merely to the image of the woman in childbirth (v. 21), but to the general cast of most of his teaching throughout the Gospel. His subject has always been the Father. Even when he has spoken of himself it has been as the Son who is revealing the Father. Jesus has said that his opponents' inability to understand him is due to their lack of faith and their alienation from God. But his own disciples have had a hard time keeping up also, as Jesus has recognized (6:60-69; 16:12). Jesus has promised to them the Paraclete, who will instruct them (14:26; 15:26; 16:13-15), but now he says that he himself will also speak to them (16:25). Because Jesus has been speaking of his resurrection, this plain speaking could refer to his teaching after his resurrection and before his ascension. But the references to prayer in his name (vv. 23-24, 26) extend beyond the resurrection period, so this further instruction probably does so as well. But if the Son himself will continue to teach the disciples, then it seems that, although the Son and the Paraclete are distinct from one another, the presence of Jesus with the disciples will be mediated by the Paraclete (see comment on 14:16, 23-28). Jesus' teaching will become clear to the disciples because the revelation will be complete, with the cross and resurrection giving the deepest insight into Jesus' identity and the significance of his ministry. But even these climactic events would not be clear without the new birth through the Spirit that enables them to share (as much as is possible for human beings) in the very life of God that Jesus shares (17:21-23). Thus, these verses speak of Jesus' resurrection and the new life there begun.

Jesus returns to the theme of asking in his name (v. 26; cf. vv. 23-24), adding a very powerful point. Asking in his name is not a matter of their asking him and then his asking the Father on their behalf. He is indeed a paraclete before the Father (1 Jn 2:1) and the one who intercedes (Rom 8:34; Heb 7:25). But such texts "deal not with petitionary prayer but with the status of the Christian before God, a status which rests entirely upon the eternal consequences of the priestly work of Christ" (Barrett 1978:496). The very fact that Jesus is our mediator means we have direct access in him to the Father. So in him we can pray to the Father, and at the same time Jesus himself prays for us. He prayed for Peter (Lk 22:32), and we will hear in the next chapter his amazing prayer for the apostles, and all disciples, spoken as if he were already in heaven.

The fact that we need a mediator could imply that the Father is aloof or hateful toward us. But Jesus makes it clear that such is not the case. Jesus need not pass on our requests to the Father, "for" (gar, left out of the NIV) the Father himself loves you (v. 27)--here we have the key revelation of the whole Gospel in a bumper sticker. Everything Jesus has been about reveals this Father and this love.

The reason the Father loves the disciples is because they have loved Jesus and believed he came from God. This does not mean God's love is dependent on our initiative or that it is not universal (see comment on 14:21). "We love because he first loved us" (1 Jn 4:19). This speaks instead of the fulfillment of that love in those who love and believe in the Son. Both the love and the belief are significant. The Son must be received as he is in truth, as the one who has come from God. John must deal later, in his first letter, with those who claim to know and love the Father and the Son but who do not receive the Son as he truly is. Neither love for a Christ of human invention nor a mere correct rational assessment of Jesus are in view here. A right relationship includes both the right understanding of who Jesus is and an attachment of love.

If the crucial revelation of the Father is his love, the key revelation of the Son is his relation to the Father, summarized in the fact that he has come from God (cf. 1 Jn 4:14, 16). Jesus unpacks this core affirmation in a four-line chiasm (v. 28; cf. Brown 1970:725):

A I came from the Father


B and entered the world


B' now I am leaving the world

A' and going back to the Father

This chiasm connects the belief the disciples already have--that Jesus came from the Father--to the point that has been causing them grief--his return to the Father. The chiasm's focus is the Son's relation to the Father and his mission to the world: his incarnation and ascension are viewed in the first and last lines in relation to the Father and in the middle lines in relation to the world (Brown 1970:725). This statement is "at once a summary of Johannine Christology and the heart of this Gospel" (Beasley-Murray 1987:287).

Thus, in verses 27 and 28 we have the fundamental grounds for the climactic salvation Jesus has been speaking about. At the heart of this salvation is the Father's love, the relation between the Father and the Son and the Son's entrance into the world. On the human side the response that brings one into intimacy with God is love and faith toward the Son as sent from God. The centrality of this view of Jesus as the one sent from God has been evident throughout the Gospel (especially 8:42-47) and is seen again in its repetition by the disciples (16:30) and its affirmation by Jesus in his concluding prayer (17:8).

Jesus Prepares the Disciples for Their Imminent Desertion of Him (16:29-33)

Jesus has promised to speak plainly, and the disciples think he has now done so (v. 29). The climactic affirmation in verses 27-28 is indeed quite clear. Jesus has just said that they believe that he has come from God (v. 27), and they affirm that faith, basing it on their knowledge (oidamen, "we know"; NIV, we can see) that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions (v. 30). Their reference to questions may seem backward. If someone knows something, then we would say he or she does not need to ask questions. The idea here, however, is that "the ability to anticipate questions and not to need to be asked is a mark of the divine" (Brown 1970:725-26; cf. Mt 6:8; Josephus Antiquities of the Jews 6.230). As the one sent from God, Jesus' knowledge is complete; thus one can trust him and not fret over the questions one might have. His revelation has validated his claim to be the one sent from God. Our knowledge of his identity grounds our faith in him, both in the sense of belief about him and trust in him.

Earlier, in the face of very cryptic teaching, Peter had made essentially the same statement: "We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God" (6:69). Despite this affirmation the disciples have been full of questions until now, when they think they finally get it. But they have not yet seen the cross, and therefore they do not yet know the Father's heart of love revealed in the laying down of the Son's life. So in fact their expression of knowledge reveals their ignorance. How often even today, with the new birth and the Spirit, we think we have something figured out, only to have God reveal to us yet further riches about himself and the life he shares with us.

So Jesus, in his love for them, must give them a reality check. His statement You believe at last! (v. 31) could actually be a question, "Now you believe?" But Jesus is not doubting their faith. Instead he is telling them they have not yet taken the final exam for this course, so their celebrations are premature. Their faith will be tested and deepened enormously in the next few days. Everyone of them, without exception, will be scattered (v. 32; cf. Zech 13:7). John himself will return to Jesus and be at the cross, but he, like Peter, will not remain close enough to Jesus to be in harm's way (see comments on 18:12-14; cf. Carson 1991:549). They will all be scattered until they are gathered again beyond the cross by the resurrected one, after the "little while."

They will all abandon Jesus, but the Father will still be with him (v. 32). How does this correspond to Jesus' cry of abandonment on the cross, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Mt 27:46; Mk 15:34)? When Jesus took our sin upon himself on the cross, he who had always known complete intimacy with the Father experienced, for the first time, the gulf that separates God from sin, light from darkness. But something deeper was also at work. This abandonment and its experience do not mean Jesus lacked faith in God. In fact, the cry of abandonment is a quote from the beginning of Psalm 22, "and the whole meaning of the Psalm is that God does not desert His suffering servants" (Hoskyns 1940b:582). His cry expresses both the reality of what he was undergoing and his faith in its outcome. If Abraham could offer up Isaac in the hope of resurrection (Gen 22; Heb 11:17-19), how much more could Jesus have confidence in God, whom he knew far better than Abraham did, and in the power of God's life, which he understood far better than Abraham did. Rather than contradicting the Synoptic accounts, Jesus' statement in verse 32 helps us interpret them correctly (cf. Hoskyns 1940b:582).

While Jesus must warn the disciples that the suffering is far from over, he does not end on that note. Now, as he has throughout the farewell discourse, Jesus warns them ahead of time so they will be prepared. He has told them not to let their hearts be troubled (14:1) but to receive his peace (14:27). This peace, as he now emphasizes (v. 33), is found in him, not in the world. The world will give them trouble, that is, the opposition that comes from those who are in rebellion against God (thlipsis; cf. v. 21). But they can take heart because he has overcome the world; he has met it in battle and conquered it (nenikeka). The theme of conflict has been present throughout the Gospel, since the beginning of the prologue (1:5), but this is the only place this word occurs. The peace and salvation spoken of throughout the Gospel all depend on his having conquered. His conquest, in turn, enables the disciples themselves to conquer the evil one, as John stresses in his first letter (1 Jn 2:13-14; 4:4; 5:4-5; cf. Rev 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21; 21:7). Thus, this is indeed a fitting line for the conclusion of Jesus' teaching.

Until death itself becomes a revelation of God the disciples can be troubled in the world, the place of death. Their joy cannot be stable and secure until they see him again (v. 16, 19) and he sees them (v. 22). Then will they reap the benefits of his conquest by becoming one with him as he pours out the Spirit. They will not ask him, but rather they will be one with him, asking the Father in his name. So their joy will be full--the joy of union with God in Christ by the Spirit. They will know God's glory and will manifest his glory as they, in union with the living Christ by the Spirit, bear fruit as Jesus did, asking for what Jesus did. Their focus and source will be God, and thus they will have peace no matter what the world may throw at them.

John 17

Jesus Prays for Himself

1After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: 2"Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. 3Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. 4I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. 5And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.

John 17:1-5


Jesus Concludes His Time Alone with His Disciples by Praying to His Father (17:1-26)

This chapter contains the most extensive and profound prayer of Jesus we have. When Jesus prayed at Lazarus's tomb he made it clear that he had no need of expressing prayer because he is one with God in his whole life, the union true prayer expresses. Nevertheless, he prayed for the benefit of those present (11:41-42), and the same is true here as well (17:13). Jesus' whole life has been a revelation of the Father, based on Jesus' union with him, so it is appropriate that his teaching concludes in the form of prayer, the genre most closely associated with union with God. Other farewell discourses also conclude with prayers (for example, 4 Ezra 8:19b-36; Beasley-Murray 1987:293), but in Jesus' case prayer is itself related to the essence of his message.

As Jesus turns to address the Father his speech implies that he is taken up into the eternal presence (cf. Brown 1970:747). He speaks as if his work were already complete (for example, v. 4). Indeed, he even says, "I am no longer in this world" (v. 11, completely obscured in the NIV). But right after that he says, I say these things while I am still in the world (v. 13). He is right there with his disciples just before his death, but he is praying from the realm of eternity. Just as the book of Revelation reveals from a heavenly perspective the certainty of God's unfolding will, so this prayer of Jesus shows that he is completely confident in the outworking of that will.

Jesus' intercession for his disciples from within God's presence anticipates his role after his ascension (cf. 1 Jn 2:1). Because this intercession corresponds to the role of the high priest elsewhere in the New Testament (Rom 8:34; Heb 7:25-26) and because Jesus uses sacrificial language when he refers to sanctifying himself (17:19), this prayer has been known as the High Priestly Prayer. In the fifth century Cyril of Alexandria saw these two activities as fitting for the one who is "our great and all-holy High Priest" (In John 11.8).

This chapter completes the chiasm of the farewell discourse spelled out in 13:31-35, with a return to the glory mentioned in 13:31-32 (see comment on 13:31). This passage concentrates on the relation of the Father and the Son and the glory they share. The Father is seen as the one who "gives" (used thirteen times of the Father in this chapter), highlighting his grace and his role as source of all. Jesus focuses specifically on the Father's gift to the Son of disciples. The Son continues to show himself to be the revealer sent from the Father, but he is seen also as a giver--he gives his disciples the Father's word, glory and eternal life.

This prayer gathers many of the key themes found throughout the Gospel. Indeed, "almost every verse contains echoes" (Dodd 1953:417). The Son's work in the disciples is developed through the themes of faith, knowledge, love, indwelling, oneness and God's name. There is also an emphasis on the world, including its separation from God, God's love for it and the disciples' mission to it.

As with much of the farewell discourse, this material is complex and can be outlined in several ways (cf. Brown 1970:748-51; Beasley-Murray 1987:295-96). Jesus begins with a petition for the glorification of the Father and the Son (vv. 1-5), after which he prays for the disciples gathered around him, first describing their situation (vv. 6-11) and then praying that they be protected and sanctified by God (vv. 11-19). Jesus then prays for all who will become believers through the witness of the eleven, that they may share in the divine oneness (vv. 20-24). He concludes with a summary of his past and future work (vv. 25-26).

Jesus Prays for the Glorification of the Father and the Son (17:1-5)

Jesus begins his prayer where his keynote address began, with the relationship between the Father and the Son (5:19-23). The oneness-yet-distinctness continues here as Jesus "lifts up his eyes toward heaven" (v. 1, obscured in the NIV) to the Father who is distinct from him and to whom he is obedient.

In his prayer Jesus will speak of the past and the future from an eternal perspective, but it is all grounded in the present, at this particular climactic point in salvation history: Father, the time ["hour," hora] has come (v. 1). This hour has cast its shadow over the whole story (2:4; 7:6, 8, 30; 8:20), and its arrival has already been signaled (12:23), with its implications for glory (12:27-28), judgment (12:31-32) and Jesus' return to the Father (13:1). Jesus now addresses the theme of glory, asking the Father to glorify the Son so that the Son may glorify the Father (v. 1). Thus, even in asking on behalf of himself his ultimate goal and delight is the Father. In general, to glorify someone means to hold him or her up for honor and praise. So on one level the Son is asking that his own honor be revealed, namely, that he is one with God; Jesus in turn will glorify the Father as he continues to reveal him as one worthy of all praise and worship. In John, however, glorification also has a more specific meaning: the death of the Son of God. Throughout the Gospel, Jesus has revealed the Father's glory by manifesting his characteristic gracious love. In the death of the Son this same love is revealed most profoundly, for God is love, and love is the laying down of one's life (cf. 1 Jn 4:8, 16; 3:16). Thus, in his death Jesus will reveal his own character and his Father's character to be gracious love.

In verse 2 Jesus expands this request for glorification, though following his exact train of thought requires careful attention. According to the NIV, Jesus' request for his glorification is grounded on (for) the authority that the Father already gave him over all people (pases sarkos, "all flesh"). But for (kathos) could also be translated "just as," indicating that the previous granting of authority is not the grounds for the glorification, but, rather, comparable to the glorification. We will soon see reason to prefer this alternative.

What authority is Jesus referring to? Earlier in the Gospel Jesus spoke of his authority from the Father to give life and to judge (5:20-27). Now he is speaking of the role the Father gave the Son as agent of creation. While "all flesh" commonly means "all people," the expression can also mean "all life on earth" (for example, Gen 7:15-16, 21; Alford 1980:875), which would be in keeping with the Son's being the one through whom "all things were made" (1:3).

The last part of verse 2 refers to the Son's giving eternal life to all those you have given to him. The NIV takes this as the purpose (that) of the Father's granting Jesus authority over all people. This is possible grammatically, but it does not do justice to the distinctions between the two halves of the verse. It is better to take the second half of verse 2 as parallel to that your Son may glorify you in verse 1. In other words, the Son will glorify the Father through giving eternal life to those the Father gives him. And the Father's glorification of the Son is in keeping with his having given him authority over all flesh.

Thus, the flow is from creation to new creation. In both cases the Father is the ultimate source, and the Son is God's agent. The Son has given life to all creation, and now it is time for him to give eternal life to those within creation given him by God. As with the Son, so with the disciples--the Father is their source (cf. 6:37, 39; 10:29; 17:6; 18:9). He gives them to the Son, and the Son gives them eternal life. The Father acts while they are still dead (cf. Eph 2:1-10); all is of his grace. Both divine sovereignty and human responsibility have been stressed throughout this Gospel, but there is never any doubt that all depends on the Father's grace. "In the contrast between all flesh and whatsoever thou hast given is expressed the inevitable tragedy of the mercy of God; it is offered to all, but received by the few, and those the elect" (Hoskyns 1940b:590; cf. H. C. G. Moule 1908:32-36).

Jesus pauses to reflect on the meaning of the term eternal life (v. 3). This verse is commonly viewed as a parenthetical statement added by John, like a footnote (Barrett 1978:503). But it flows quite naturally even when understood as Jesus' comment on what he has just said, much as verses 6-8 will comment on verse 4. Jesus' reference to himself in the third person seems strange, but the Old Testament contains examples (e.g., 2 Sam 7:20). The phrase only true God is not attributed to Jesus elsewhere, but it is similar to John's own language (1 Jn 5:20). Likewise, nowhere else does Jesus refer to himself as Jesus Christ, but this expression is very common outside the Gospels. Indeed, this double reference to the one true God and to Jesus is similar to texts in Paul contrasting the Christian faith with pagan polytheism and idolatry (1 Thess 1:9-10; 1 Cor 8:6). So the language probably comes from a later date (though cf. Mt 11:27). Most scholars today would say the thought itself is from the later church, but this begs the question of Jesus' identity and how much of the later church's understanding derives from Jesus himself (cf. C. F. D. Moule 1977). B. F. Westcott is probably closer to the truth when he says John is giving "in conventional language (so to speak) the substance of what the Lord said probably at greater length" (1908:2:244). Such is the case throughout this Gospel.The Son's ultimate mission is to give eternal life, that is, knowledge of the Father and the Son (v. 3). "The notion that knowledge of God is essential to life (salvation) is common to Hebrew and Hellenistic thought," though knowledge does not mean the same thing in every source (Barrett 1978:503). For John, this knowledge is closely associated with faith (which enables the appropriation of eternal life; 6:47; 20:31) and includes correct intellectual understanding, moral alignment through obedience and the intimacy of union (cf. Dodd 1953:151-69). That is, it refers to shared life, and because it is the life of God that is shared it is eternal life. Eternal (aionios) means unending or timeless, but it refers to not just the quantity but also a certain quality of life. In Hebrew eternal life is literally "life of eternity, age" (hayye `olam, Dan 12:2), a expression used in contrast to temporal life and also in the contrast between this age and the age to come. Indeed, the word eternal is related to the word "age" (aion). This association with the age to come is most significant in John. For in Jewish thought, life in the age to come is characterized by a restored relationship with God, and that is precisely what Jesus speaks of here. The life of the age to come is already present in Jesus and made available to his disciples, and at the heart of it is an intimate relation with God. "The only life is participation in God, and we do this by knowing God and enjoying his goodness" (Irenaeus Against Heresies 4.20.5).

This stress on knowledge sounds Gnostic. In a sense it is, and early Christians believed they had the true knowledge, as opposed to that which is "falsely called knowledge" (tes pseudonymou gnoseos, 1 Tim 6:20). Clement of Alexandria (died in A.D. 220), for example, constantly referred to Christians as the true gnostics, and his view of knowledge at core was very much in keeping with our verse. While some of the language and thought of this Gospel is similar to Gnosticism in its various forms (for which see Rudolph 1992), the fact that this knowledge comes through the historical deeds of Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, that it is grounded in faith, that it is available already now within history and that it is not concerned with self-knowledge and cosmic speculation sets it off from Gnosticism itself (cf. Schmitz and Schütz 1976:403-5). Any revealed religion will be gnostic--the issue is whether the knowledge claimed is true or false.

The statement in verse 3 is also strikingly similar in form to the central affirmation of Islam, "There is no god but Allah, and Mohammed is his Prophet." Both religions claim to honor the only true God, a theme from the Old Testament as well (e.g., Ex 34:6 LXX; Is 37:20), and both speak of the great revealer of God. But they differ radically in what is said of this revealer. Jesus is a prophet--indeed, the revealer of God par excellence. But this verse, in keeping with the whole of this Gospel, says Jesus is far more than just a prophet. For eternal life is not just a knowledge of God as revealed by the Son; it includes a knowledge of the Son himself. Thus he shares in deity, since "the knowledge of God and a creature could not be eternal life" (Alford 1980:875). This amazing statement, therefore, affirms both the equality of the Son with the Father and his subordination as son and as the one sent.

Jesus has prayed that he might glorify God in the future, but now he speaks of the glorification of the Father he has already accomplished in his ministry (v. 4). His work is not complete before his death (10:18; 19:28, 30), but he says, "I glorified [edoxasa, aorist] you on earth, having completed [teleiosas, aorist] the work. . . ." The NIV translation is grammatically possible, but it misses the eternal, confident perspective evident in Jesus' statement that his work is already over. The glorification of the Father has been the distinguishing feature of his life throughout the Gospel, a glory characterized by grace and truth (1:14). The work was given to him by the Father. So the character of the works revealed the character of him who gave them to the Son to do, and in this way the words and deeds of Jesus revealed the Father's glory. But also in the Son's obedience itself is seen the glory of God, since his humility, obedience and sacrifice reflect the love that is the laying down of one's life.

Having prayed for the glorification of the cross and its provision of life (vv. 1-2) and having mentioned the glorification evident in his ministry (v. 4), Jesus concludes with yet another aspect of the glory: And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began (v. 5). Here language used of Wisdom (Prov 8:23; Wisdom of Solomon 7:25; Brown 1970:754) is taken up by the incarnate one, who is about to die. Glory now seems to refer to the shining splendor of the divine presence, the "unapproachable light" that Paul mentions (1 Tim 6:16). Nevertheless, it still retains the element of love. For the Son is asking that, through the glorification of the cross, resurrection and ascension, he may return to where he was before, beside (para; NIV, with) the Father (cf. vv. 2, 24; 1:18, H. C. G. Moule 1908:40-42). The ineffable mystery of the loving unity of the Godhead is here revealed to us once again.

Jesus Prays for His Disciples
6"I have revealed you[1] to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. 7Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. 8For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. 9I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. 10All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. 11I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name--the name you gave me--so that they may be one as we are one.

John 17:6-11


Jesus Begins His Prayer for the Eleven Disciples by Describing Their Situation (17:6-11)

The opening verses have focused on the glory of the Father and the Son, but they have also included the disciples, and to them Jesus now turns more directly. He comments on his work among them, their response and the relation they now have with the Father and the Son in contrast to the world's.

As in verse 4, Jesus again speaks as if his ministry is complete: "I revealed [ephanerosa, aorist] your name [cf. NIV margin] to those whom you gave me out of the world" (v. 6). Revealing the name could point specifically to Jesus' use of the I AM (Dodd 1953:417; Brown 1970:755-56), but in any case it certainly means to make manifest the person and character of God (cf. 1:12). Thus, revealing the name is similar to revealing the glory, and, like the glorification, it will not be complete before Jesus' death. The manifestation through teaching has been completed, but the climactic revelation through death and resurrection yet remains.

The disciples were given to Jesus by the Father from the world, another reference to the amazing grace of God. The Father is the ultimate agent in the disciples' lives just as he is in Jesus' life. Jesus states the pattern of relations very succinctly: They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word (v. 6). What does it mean that they were God's? Some would see here a reference to predestination (Barrett 1978:505)--they were the Father's through "the eternity of election" (Calvin 1959:139). But Paul, who develops this specific theme, writes that the election "before the creation of the world" is in Christ (Eph 1:4). If our text referred to this election it would seem to drive a wedge between the Father and the pre-existent Son, a false inference from this text (vv. 9-10; cf. Chrysostom In John 81.1; Augustine In John 106.5). Jesus is probably speaking not of an eternal relation but of a relation within salvation history, that is, the relation the disciples had with God through the covenant with Israel (Westcott 1908:2:246; Ridderbos 1997:551-52). Those true Israelites (1:47), who had an affinity with God (8:47), were already God's and were awaiting his Messiah, who would bring them to the fulfillment of that relationship. The Father gave them to the Son for this purpose; and through their faith and obedience, as they were drawn by God to the Son and his teaching (6:44-45, 60-66), they demonstrated that they were God's. This relationship is about to be changed radically, for the disciples are now on the brink of the birth from above. Thus, the disciples were already of the Father--there was an affinity--just as the opponents were of their father, the devil (8:42-47). This interpretation leads us to ask why some had (and have) an affinity for God and some do not, why some, but not others, have hardness of heart that alienates them from the life of God (cf. Eph 4:18). Since both divine grace and human responsibility are mentioned together in this Gospel, the answer probably lies in some combination of the two, a combination that eludes our full understanding.

The point here, however, is that true Israelites whom God has shepherded have been handed over by him to Jesus, and the sheep have recognized his voice and have received Jesus as come from God. In doing so they have obeyed ["kept," teterekan] your word (v. 6). This is the only such reference in John to keeping the Father's word. Most interpreters think this refers to keeping Jesus' word, which is God's word. Jesus will speak of that soon (vv. 8, 14), but here he is probably saying that the disciples obeyed the Father's voice, which was drawing them to Jesus, and that Jesus in turn passed on to them the revelation of the Father.

Jesus does then address the disciples' response to himself (vv. 7-8). These disciples, who are of God and are given by God to the Son, have been able to recognize and receive as from the Father all that the Son has received from the Father and passed on to them (v. 7). The specific reference is to Jesus' teaching, which they have received. Jesus' words are God's words, and these bring life and judgment (3:34; 6:63, 68; 12:48; 14:24; 17:14). Thus, Jesus' teaching has been grounded on his own identity as the Son sent from the Father. Accordingly, these disciples have been given to the Son; the focus is on him and their acceptance of him. They knew for certain that he came from the Father, and they believed that the Father sent him. So they knew and believed the truth about both the Son and the Father in their mutual relation.

Jesus picks up the affirmation spoken by disciples (16:30) just minutes before he began his prayer. Their knowledge and faith are not as complete as they think it is, but Jesus affirms they have reached a decisive point. They have believed in him and hung in with him, even when most of his followers abandoned him (6:60-69). There is still an enormous amount they do not know, and Jesus told them as much when he promised them the Paraclete to instruct them (14:26; 16:13). But the foundation has been laid, and it is secure. They have been receptive, the fundamental attitude of a true disciple, and now they have grasped the crux of the revelation--the identity of the Son in relation to the Father. The grace of revelation has been met with by human response of humble openness, faith and obedience. Jesus' affirmation of these disciples should be tremendously encouraging to present-day disciples. Here we see God's acceptance of believers despite their great ignorance and weakness.

The disciples' relation to God has enabled them to recognize the Son and believe in him. It is for these believers--and not the world, which has rejected Jesus--that he is now praying (v. 9). Jesus' frank statement I am not praying for the world may sound as though he has nothing to do with the world, and it has even led some to think he only ever prays for the elect (Calvin 1959:140-41). But, in fact, he does go on to pray for the world (vv. 21, 23)! So here he means the petitions that follow about protection, sanctification and union with God are prayers only for the disciples (cf. Alford 1980:877). None of these petitions are applicable to the world, to the system and those beings in rebellion against God. Since it is through the disciples' witness that the world will continue to be challenged with God's love and call, Jesus' prayer for his disciples is actually an indirect prayer for the world (Beasley-Murray 1987:298).

Jesus repeats his earlier description of the disciples (v. 6) but changes it subtly. These disciples are those the Father has given the Son--for they are yours. They were the Father's before he gave them to the Son, and they remain the Father's after he gives them to the Son. The next verse (v. 10) explains how this can be: All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. Here is the fundamental truth of this Gospel--the oneness of the Father and the Son--expressed in terms of possession. The disciples' very relations with the Father and Son bear witness to this foundational truth. They have been given to the Son and yet remain the Father's because of the divine oneness. Here, as throughout this Gospel, Jesus' deeds and words make no sense unless one realizes he is God. Indeed, this very statement bears witness to this claim. For anyone can, and should, truthfully say to the Father, all I have is yours. But the reverse, all you have is mine--"this can no creature say before God" (Alford 1980:878). The glory that Jesus says has come to him through them comes from both the Father and the disciples. In the Father's giving the disciples to Jesus, the Father bore witness to this relation of oneness; and the disciples, who were of the Father, recognized him and believed in him.

So we see that the mutual glorification between the Father and the Son for which the Son is praying (v. 1) has already occurred on one level. But now Jesus looks to the time when the Son is taken from them and they are left in the world (v. 11a). The relation that has begun must now be maintained in this new situation; and the glory that has begun must come to completion in divine oneness (v. 22) and then eventually, in yet another stage, in the fullness of the revelation of the glory of Son (v. 24). The world and the evil one would like to thwart these plans, so Jesus now turns to pray for his disciples in the situation they are about to face.

12While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled. 13"I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17Sanctify[2] them by the truth; your word is truth. 18As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.

John 17:12-19


Jesus Prays for the Eleven Disciples (17:11-19)

Jesus prays first for God to protect the disciples by his name, which he has given to Jesus (v. 11; the NIV adds power). Many interpret this as referring to Jesus' revelation of the Father, and therefore the petition is that they remain loyal to what Jesus has revealed of God (for example, Beasley-Murray 1987:299). This is certainly true, and, indeed, Jesus' very address to God in this verse, Holy Father, captures much of that revelation. While God is commonly known as the Holy One, the expression Holy Father is not found anywhere else in the Bible. Holiness refers to divine otherness, the realm of the divine in contrast to the mundane. Thus, this phrase captures beautifully God's "purity and tenderness" (Westcott 1908:2:250), the "transcendence and intimacy characteristic of Jesus' personal attitude to God and of his teaching about God" (Beasley-Murray 1987:299).

But more is involved than just the revelation of God, for the goal of keeping them in the Father's name is that they may be one as we are one (v. 11). This oneness, as will be made clear soon (vv. 21-23), is not merely a unity of thought among those who receive the teaching of Jesus. It is a matter of shared life. So name here refers not just to the revelation, but to the reality that has been revealed--the Father himself. The name is the point of contact between Christ and his disciples in the Father. "God's Name is His revelation of Himself" (Lloyd 1936: 230). When he says (again speak-ing from an eternal perspective) while I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me (v. 12), he is referring to the protection they had by his own divine presence among them as the I AM. Jesus is asking God to continue to protect them by his powerful presence, a presence that will be mediated by himself and the Spirit, as he has taught in the farewell discourse (13:31--17:26).

If Jesus protected them, why did Judas fall away into destruction (v. 12)? Judas's failure to find life would raise questions for the disciples about Jesus' ability to protect them. Jesus points to two explanations for what happened to Judas. First, his action fulfilled the scriptural pattern of the enemy of the righteous sufferer (for example, Ps 41:9, which was referred to in Jn 13:18 regarding Judas). This does not mean Judas was locked into some deterministic plan but rather "Jesus knew himself to be one with, and had to go the way of, the threatened people of God in the world to fulfill their God-given task" (Ridderbos 1997:553-54). Thus, Jesus finds an assurance in the Scripture of the same sort he is offering his disciples, for they also are the threatened people of God.

The other explanation regarding Judas concerns Judas's own character as "the son of destruction" (NIV, the one doomed to destruction). While this expression can have the sense of indicating one's destiny, as the NIV takes it (cf. Beasley-Murray 1987:299), its basic idea is "to denote one who shares in this thing or who is worthy of it, or who stands in some other close relation to it" (Bauer, Gingrich and Danker 1979:834). In Ephesians, for example, the expression "sons of disobedience" (2:2, RSV) is explained in terms of actions that flow from an inner disposition (2:3). So also here the reference is primarily to Judas's own character. The text reads, literally, "no one was destroyed [apoleto] except the son of destruction [apoleias]." Judas had heard the words and seen the deeds and even been the recipient of special signs of love from Jesus (see comment on 13:26), but in his heart he was not of the Father (cf. 17:6) and so did not receive with humility, faith and obedience the one sent from the Father. When one rejects the offer of life one is left only with destruction. The tree became known by its fruit. Jesus offered life to Judas, but he did not force Judas to accept it, for he does not force anyone's acceptance (cf. Chrysostom In John 81.2). The disciples have confidence because this same offer is made to them, as it is to everyone, and they have responded and received. Jesus is saying these things in the world, that is, in the arena of conflict, so that his disciples can have the full measure of his joy within them (v. 13). This joy comes from total confidence in the Father and in his protection as well as in the intimate communion with him such as Judas lacked.

While he was with the disciples Jesus kept and guarded them (v. 12) and gave them God's word (v. 14). This is the word that both comes from God and is about God. The same expression was used earlier (v. 6) to refer to the Father's own word, but here it is his word as expressed through Jesus (cf. vv. 7-8). This word of God sets them apart from the world and causes the world to hate them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world (v. 14), a point he repeats for emphasis (v. 16). Again, Jesus is speaking from the eternal perspective, for the disciples' removal from the world is not complete until they have received the birth from above (1:13; 3:3-8). Already they are hated by the world because of their association with Jesus, and the world's hatred will only increase as their association becomes union.

Having spoken of what he has done for the disciples while with them Jesus returns to his request that the Father keep them (v. 11b), which he now specifies in two ways. First, this protection is to be in the midst of the world, not through removal from it (v. 15). In their identification with Jesus they draw upon themselves the world's hatred of him, but they also share in his mission to the world, as will be spelled out shortly (v. 18). Second, the protection is from the evil one (v. 15). Behind this world, which hates them, is the evil one, for "the whole world is under the control of the evil one" (1 Jn 5:19). The warfare motif runs throughout Scripture (cf. Boyd 1997) and is fundamental in Jesus' own understanding of reality.

Although Jesus is about to complete his work of salvation, God's warfare with the world will continue. Neither the Father nor the Son is going to abandon the world; rather they will continue to engage it, confront it and call it to repentance. "The disciples' place in the world is not something that they can give up because the world is not something that God can give up" (Ridderbos 1997:558). In some Christian circles today there is a healthy sense of this antagonism between the world and the people of God, though sometimes believers need to bring to this antagonism more of God's love for the world. Also, some forms of monasticism can be a direct contradiction to the Lord's will as it is expressed here, though at its best monasticism is a confrontation with the world. In other Christian circles this view of the world is unpopular, for there human culture is seen as an expression of God's word through his immanent Spirit. While God is active in culture, this latter view often leads to new revelations that contradict the revelation in Jesus and in the Scriptures as the Spirit has instructed the church. A passage such as the present one has "a message for an era that becomes naively optimistic about changing the world or even about affirming its values without change" (Brown 1970:764).

Jesus' second great petition is that the Father sanctify the disciples (v. 17). Sanctifying is not the same as the cleansing (13:10; 15:3), but it is related to the pruning (15:2). The word used here (hagiazo) is related to the word "holy" (hagios) that Jesus has just used of the Father (v. 11). It means to consecrate, to set apart. It is used for the preparation necessary for entering the presence of God (Ex 19:10, 22) and for the commissioning for a divine task, for example, that of a priest (Ex 28:41; 40:13) or a prophet (Jer 1:5; Sirach 49:7). The whole people of God are set apart for God as a holy nation (Ex 19:6), answering the call to be holy as God is holy (Lev 11:44), in contrast to the foreign nations (2 Macc 1:25-26; 3 Macc 6:3). All three of these nuances are relevant to Jesus' prayer. This sanctification is by the truth, that is, God's word. Such is a common thought in Jewish sources (Schnackenburg 1982:185), but here this word is Jesus' revelation of God in word and deed (cf. 15:3). Jesus is himself the Word (1:1), as he is the truth (14:6). God's word and truth correspond to what has already been referred to in this prayer as God's glory and name. They are all manifestations of God that point to and actually enable contact with him in and through Jesus. As the disciples share in God's glory (v. 22) and are in his name (v. 11), so here this sanctification means being drawn "into the truth, into the unity between Father and Son, and into salvation in such a way that the Father's being, his holiness, permeates them" (Tolmie 1995:225).

Because the disciples have God's truth they are set apart and sent into the world, just as Jesus was (v. 18). Like him they are to be in the world but not of it, judging and calling the world by being the presence of God's light, bearing witness to his love and offering his life in the midst of the world. They share in the very life of God in the Son of God through the Spirit of God, and thus they do the work of God as Jesus has done, revealing God's love and life and light. In this way, all three aspects of sanctification are evident: they are set apart to enter God's presence, indeed, to have his presence enter them; they are commissioned for holy service; and they constitute the holy people of God, restored Israel, who are distinct from all others in the world because of the divine presence.

Jesus concludes this section of his prayer with another reference to sanctification (v. 19), which draws out yet another nuance of the term and takes us to the heart of his work and the life to which he calls his disciples. When he says for [hyper] them I sanctify myself, he alludes to the consecration of sacrificial animals (Ex 13:2; Deut 15:19, 21) and so speaks of his coming death as a sacrifice (see comment on 10:11; cf. 1:29; 10:11, 15; 15:13; 1 Jn 3:16, Hoskyns 1940b:595-99; Schnackenburg 1982:187). It is the same theme as that found in the accounts of the Last Supper when Jesus says, "My body . . . for [hyper] you" (Lk 22:19; 1 Cor 11:24) and "My blood . . . for [hyper] many" (Mk 14:24; cf. Beasley-Murray 1987:301). Thus sanctification, like glorification, includes a reference to the cross, the moment of revelation when the truth of God--his heart of sacrificial love--is most clearly seen. The cross is the ultimate revelation of the truth, and thus his sacrificial death is necessary if the disciples are to be truly sanctified, an expression that could also be translated "sanctified in the truth" (en aletheia; cf. v. 17, en te aletheia). The cross is also the final and supreme act of Jesus' humility, obedience and death to self that have characterized his whole ministry and are at the heart of his relation with God. So his sacrificial death not only takes away the sins of the world (1:29) and reveals God; it also completes the pattern of life that he will share with them. For the disciples are to have their life in Christ, as branches are in a vine, thus sharing in his very life with the Father, which includes a death of self. They will live out the life of Christ by receiving life from the Father and by dying to self and the world (cf. Rom 12:1). And at the end, after walking as Jesus walked (1 Jn 2:6), their deaths, like Jesus', will also be a glorification of the Father (cf. Jn 21:19). Both sacrificial living and dying, whether by martyrdom or not, are part of the disciples' sanctification (cf. Chrysostom In John 82.1).

As the disciples bear witness to God in this way they will produce followers of God, just as Jesus has done. So the themes of consecration and sending lead naturally to the next section of the prayer, Jesus' petition for those who will believe as a result of the disciples' witness.

Jesus Prays for All Believers
20"My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: 23I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. 24"Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.

John 17:20-24


Jesus Prays for All Who Believe in Him Through the Witness of the Eleven (17:20-24)

Jesus now prays for all believers that which he has prayed for the eleven (vv. 20, 22a). His ultimate purpose in his requests is that all may be one (vv. 21a, 22b-23a) so, in turn, the world may believe (v. 21b) and know (v. 23b) that the Father sent the Son. Jesus then adds the request that all believers may be with him in heaven to see his glory (v. 24).

Jesus' disciples are described by him as those who will believe in me through their message (v. 20). All later belief, Jesus implies here, is to come through the apostolic word (Alford 1980:880), thereby showing that the apostolic foundation of the church (cf. Mt 16:18; Eph 2:19-20; Rev 21:14) was the will of Christ himself. This Gospel does not speak much of the twelve apostles as such (6:67), but important truths about them are conveyed, especially in the farewell discourse, which is addressed to them. Most importantly, they are the chief witnesses to Jesus (cf. 15:27), as we see here.

What follows is usually seen as the content of Jesus' prayer for all disciples--that all of them may be one (v. 21)--as it is in the NIV. The word that (hina) is used this way quite often, but it also frequently signals purpose. Jesus uses this same language in two other places in this prayer (vv. 11, 22), both times clearly indicating purpose, which suggests he intends this meaning here as well (Ridderbos 1997:559; cf. Alford 1980:880). The content of Jesus' prayer for all believers, then, would be the same as the content of his prayer for the eleven, namely, that they be kept and sanctified by God (vv. 11-19), through God's name (vv. 11-12), word (v. 14) and truth (v. 17), which they have received through Jesus. He now summarizes using yet another parallel term when he says I have given them the glory that you gave me (v. 22; cf. Schnackenburg 1982:192). Like the other terms, glory refers to the revelation of God in all his beauty of being and character. But, also like the other terms, glory is a manifestation of God himself--not just a revelation about him, but his actual presence (cf. Ex 33:18-23). Jesus shares in this glory as the eternal Son (vv. 5, 24), and he has now given (dedoka, perfect tense, another pointer to the eternal perspective of Jesus in this prayer) this glory to his disciples. In part this refers to his revelation of the Father, which he has made known to his disciples; but this revelation brings them the knowledge that is a participation in God's own eternal life (v. 3). Accordingly, Jesus says he has done all of this, here summarized as his giving of the divine glory, in order that they might share in the divine oneness.

In the first century there was a widespread belief among Jews, Greeks and Romans in the unity of humanity. Various sources for this unity were suggested, including the concept of one God, the recognition of one universal human nature, the recognition of a universal law and the notion of one world (Taylor 1992:746-49). Efforts were made to embody this unity. For example, Alexander the Great had set out to unite the inhabited world, and later the Romans picked up the same goal. On a smaller scale, the members of the community at Qumran referred to themselves as "the unity," which included a unity with the angels, thus linking heaven and earth (Beasley-Murray 1987:302). So Jesus' prayer would speak to an issue of great interest, but the oneness he refers to is distinctive in its nature from other notions of unity. It is grounded in the one God, as were some other views of unity (Taylor 1992:746), but also in himself and his own relation with the one God. He claims to offer the unity that many were desiring, but this unity is grounded in his own relation with his Father. Furthermore, he says that the band of disciples there in the room with him is the nucleus of the one unified humanity.

Jesus speaks of the oneness of all believers (that all of them may be one, v. 21) and then links this with the mutual indwelling of the Father and the Son. The NIV has this indwelling as the model for the relationship among believers: just as you are in me and I am in you. The word translated just as (kathos) can signal not only comparison but cause. Both of these two meanings are appropriate here, for the mutual indwelling of the Father and the Son is both the reason that all may be one and the pattern for such oneness. This becomes clearer when Jesus adds "that they themselves also may be in us" (v. 21; the NIV makes this a new sentence). The oneness of believers is to be found in us, in their relation to the Father and the Son. The same twofold thought occurs when Jesus repeats that they may be one as [kathos] we are one (v. 22). The oneness of the Father and the Son is both the cause of and the model for the believers' unity.

The Father and the Son's oneness has been mentioned earlier (10:30) and has been implicit in all that Jesus has said and done. This oneness includes both a unity of being and a distinctness of person, and it has been seen especially as a oneness of will and love. These are also the characteristics of the oneness that Jesus desires for his disciples to have in their relationship with one another in God. The picture of the relation believers have with one another and with God becomes clear when the various expressions are compared (see figure 1). This oneness is made possible through two types of mutual indwelling--the believers in the Son and the Son in them (14:20; 15:4-5) as well as the Son in the Father and the Father in the Son (10:38; 14:10-11; 17:21). These two types are combined to explain the believers' living in God: on the one hand, the believers are in the Son, who is in the Father (14:20; cf. Col 3:3); on the other hand, the Father is in the Son, who is in the believers (Jn 17:23). The believers' point of contact in both cases is the Son. Nowhere in this Gospel is it said that the Father is in believers or that believers are in the Father. The believers have a mutual indwelling with the Father, but only by the Son, for no one comes to the Father except through the Son (14:6). So the oneness of the Son with the Father is unique (1:14, 18), for Jesus shares in the deity of the Father. But in the Son believers have access to the Father and share in his very life, the eternal life.

Jesus seems to suggest that the actual outworking of the believers' oneness with one another in the Father through the Son is a process that will take some time, for he adds, may they be brought to complete unity (v. 23). More literally, he says, "may they have been perfected into one." The perfect tense is used, suggesting once again Jesus' eternal perspective as he prays. He is speaking, in part, about the oneness that is further perfected as the "other sheep" (10:16) and the "scattered children of God" (11:52) are gathered in. But this oneness must also refer to the oneness that is present throughout the life of the community as the community makes "every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace" (Eph 4:3), for it is something that the world can notice. So this is a spiritual oneness that comes from God, but it has to do with how the community of believers lives in the world.

Indeed, Jesus says the purpose of this oneness is that the world may believe that you have sent me (v. 21). Such belief is the key response Jesus has received from his disciples (v. 8), so this is a reference to those who are still in the world yet are becoming believers. To believe that the Father sent Jesus is to accept that the Father is as Jesus has revealed him to be and that Jesus is the one way to the Father. When Jesus repeats this purpose he changes the term from believe to know (v. 23), again echoing his earlier description of the disciples (v. 8). Because this knowing is parallel to believing, Jesus does not refer to some mere intellectual recognition of the fact that the Father sent the Son, but rather to the knowledge that is eternal life (v. 3).

Thus, the disciples are sent on mission just as Jesus was sent (v. 18), and the very purpose of their life together is to bear witness to the Father and the Son. This oneness flows from a common life that is characterized chiefly by love, and thus the world will see that the Father has loved the disciples as he has loved the Son (v. 23). In other words, the amazing transcendent love evident between the Father and the Son is not an exclusive glory that humans must be content only to admire from afar. The love the Father has for Jesus is the same love he has for believers, indeed for the whole world (3:16). For "God is love" (1 Jn 4:8, 16), and "there is only one love of God" (Brown 1970:772). The believers are to embody this love and thereby provide living proof of God's gracious character, which is his mercy, love and truth. They will be an advertisement, inviting people to join in this union with God. The love of God evident in the church is a revelation that there is a welcome awaiting those who will quit the rebellion and return home. Here is the missionary strategy of this Gospel--the community of disciples, indwelt with God's life and light and love, witnessing to the Father in the Son by the Spirit by word and deed, continuing to bear witness as the Son has done.

A great deal has been written about this passage regarding the meaning and implications of this oneness for the church (cf. Staton 1997). The main points in the text seem to be that this oneness is a spiritual reality, derived from sharing in the divine life of the Father and the Son and embodied in a particular community of human beings such that it can be evident to unbelievers. In other words, it is a sacrament, a reality in the human sphere participating in the divine sphere. So this is not simply some invisible church, although the actual institutional structure of this community is not discussed beyond the reference to the apostles' word (v. 20). The actual lack of unity among Christians throughout history, both between groups of Christians and within groups, tempts a believer to despair and holds Christ up to contempt by the world. Jesus' prayer shows that there can be no oneness apart from him, yet Christians disagree on who Jesus is and how one is to relate to him! This oneness clearly must come from God and is not something people of goodwill can manufacture. It is predicated on sharing in the divine glory (v. 22) and name (v. 26). Oneness can only come through being born from above, hearing the voice of the Good Shepherd and accepting the witness of the Paraclete, thereby revealing the glory of the Father within history.

This oneness is to take place in history in order that the world can continue to be confronted with a witness to the Father. Jesus' last petition, however, looks beyond this life to heaven (v. 24). Jesus is returning to the Father, and now he prays for those you have given me, repeating again the fact that these are his disciples only because of the Father's will (cf. vv. 2, 6, 9). This expression is more literally translated as "that which you have given me," another use of the neuter singular to speak of his disciples as a unit (see note on v. 2; cf. 6:37, 39; perhaps 10:29), which is particularly appropriate after his referring to their oneness. But the band of disciples is not a faceless group; it is composed of beloved individuals who each are indwelt by the Son (15:5), and so he immediately uses the masculine plural pronoun for them (kakeinoi; left out of the NIV). In this way the grammar captures both the oneness of the community and the distinct individuals within the one community.

He whose will is one with God's will now expresses that will when he says I want. What he wants is this community of individuals to be with him where he is. So those who are "in" him are also to be "with" him, again recognizing the distinction of persons. Union with God is not homogenization. Jesus' request that they be with him raises interesting questions, since as divine Son he is present everywhere (cf. Augustine In John 111.2). But the connection with Jesus' earlier teaching about returning to take them to be with him where he is (14:1-3) suggests strongly he is referring to heaven. This being the case, his prayer takes in the whole span of the believers' life, from then on into eternity. Specifically, he wants them to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. We have already seen his glory (v. 22; 1:14; cf. 2 Cor 3:18; 4:6), but there is a yet more complete vision of his glory awaiting believers. John later says that at his coming "we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is" (1 Jn 3:2; cf. Col 3:4). What begins at his second coming will continue on, for Jesus is talking not about his coming itself but about that which takes place afterwards. He has promised Peter, and, through him, his other disciples that they will follow him later (13:36), and here is what they will meet, the glory of the Lord--the glory that comes from the Father, who is the source of all, and that is a gift of love. That which Jesus has revealed in his earthly ministry is a mere glimpse of an eternal reality that existed before creation. In his prayer, Jesus has been speaking of the future from an eternal perspective. Here in his final petition he looks on ahead to the ultimate future.

Jesus Prays for All Believers
20"My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: 23I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. 24"Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. 25"Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them."

John 17:20-26


Jesus Prays for All Who Believe in Him Through the Witness of the Eleven (17:20-24)

Jesus now prays for all believers that which he has prayed for the eleven (vv. 20, 22a). His ultimate purpose in his requests is that all may be one (vv. 21a, 22b-23a) so, in turn, the world may believe (v. 21b) and know (v. 23b) that the Father sent the Son. Jesus then adds the request that all believers may be with him in heaven to see his glory (v. 24).

Jesus' disciples are described by him as those who will believe in me through their message (v. 20). All later belief, Jesus implies here, is to come through the apostolic word (Alford 1980:880), thereby showing that the apostolic foundation of the church (cf. Mt 16:18; Eph 2:19-20; Rev 21:14) was the will of Christ himself. This Gospel does not speak much of the twelve apostles as such (6:67), but important truths about them are conveyed, especially in the farewell discourse, which is addressed to them. Most importantly, they are the chief witnesses to Jesus (cf. 15:27), as we see here.

What follows is usually seen as the content of Jesus' prayer for all disciples--that all of them may be one (v. 21)--as it is in the NIV. The word that (hina) is used this way quite often, but it also frequently signals purpose. Jesus uses this same language in two other places in this prayer (vv. 11, 22), both times clearly indicating purpose, which suggests he intends this meaning here as well (Ridderbos 1997:559; cf. Alford 1980:880). The content of Jesus' prayer for all believers, then, would be the same as the content of his prayer for the eleven, namely, that they be kept and sanctified by God (vv. 11-19), through God's name (vv. 11-12), word (v. 14) and truth (v. 17), which they have received through Jesus. He now summarizes using yet another parallel term when he says I have given them the glory that you gave me (v. 22; cf. Schnackenburg 1982:192). Like the other terms, glory refers to the revelation of God in all his beauty of being and character. But, also like the other terms, glory is a manifestation of God himself--not just a revelation about him, but his actual presence (cf. Ex 33:18-23). Jesus shares in this glory as the eternal Son (vv. 5, 24), and he has now given (dedoka, perfect tense, another pointer to the eternal perspective of Jesus in this prayer) this glory to his disciples. In part this refers to his revelation of the Father, which he has made known to his disciples; but this revelation brings them the knowledge that is a participation in God's own eternal life (v. 3). Accordingly, Jesus says he has done all of this, here summarized as his giving of the divine glory, in order that they might share in the divine oneness.

In the first century there was a widespread belief among Jews, Greeks and Romans in the unity of humanity. Various sources for this unity were suggested, including the concept of one God, the recognition of one universal human nature, the recognition of a universal law and the notion of one world (Taylor 1992:746-49). Efforts were made to embody this unity. For example, Alexander the Great had set out to unite the inhabited world, and later the Romans picked up the same goal. On a smaller scale, the members of the community at Qumran referred to themselves as "the unity," which included a unity with the angels, thus linking heaven and earth (Beasley-Murray 1987:302). So Jesus' prayer would speak to an issue of great interest, but the oneness he refers to is distinctive in its nature from other notions of unity. It is grounded in the one God, as were some other views of unity (Taylor 1992:746), but also in himself and his own relation with the one God. He claims to offer the unity that many were desiring, but this unity is grounded in his own relation with his Father. Furthermore, he says that the band of disciples there in the room with him is the nucleus of the one unified humanity.

Jesus speaks of the oneness of all believers (that all of them may be one, v. 21) and then links this with the mutual indwelling of the Father and the Son. The NIV has this indwelling as the model for the relationship among believers: just as you are in me and I am in you. The word translated just as (kathos) can signal not only comparison but cause. Both of these two meanings are appropriate here, for the mutual indwelling of the Father and the Son is both the reason that all may be one and the pattern for such oneness. This becomes clearer when Jesus adds "that they themselves also may be in us" (v. 21; the NIV makes this a new sentence). The oneness of believers is to be found in us, in their relation to the Father and the Son. The same twofold thought occurs when Jesus repeats that they may be one as [kathos] we are one (v. 22). The oneness of the Father and the Son is both the cause of and the model for the believers' unity.

The Father and the Son's oneness has been mentioned earlier (10:30) and has been implicit in all that Jesus has said and done. This oneness includes both a unity of being and a distinctness of person, and it has been seen especially as a oneness of will and love. These are also the characteristics of the oneness that Jesus desires for his disciples to have in their relationship with one another in God. The picture of the relation believers have with one another and with God becomes clear when the various expressions are compared (see figure 1). This oneness is made possible through two types of mutual indwelling--the believers in the Son and the Son in them (14:20; 15:4-5) as well as the Son in the Father and the Father in the Son (10:38; 14:10-11; 17:21). These two types are combined to explain the believers' living in God: on the one hand, the believers are in the Son, who is in the Father (14:20; cf. Col 3:3); on the other hand, the Father is in the Son, who is in the believers (Jn 17:23). The believers' point of contact in both cases is the Son. Nowhere in this Gospel is it said that the Father is in believers or that believers are in the Father. The believers have a mutual indwelling with the Father, but only by the Son, for no one comes to the Father except through the Son (14:6). So the oneness of the Son with the Father is unique (1:14, 18), for Jesus shares in the deity of the Father. But in the Son believers have access to the Father and share in his very life, the eternal life.

Jesus seems to suggest that the actual outworking of the believers' oneness with one another in the Father through the Son is a process that will take some time, for he adds, may they be brought to complete unity (v. 23). More literally, he says, "may they have been perfected into one." The perfect tense is used, suggesting once again Jesus' eternal perspective as he prays. He is speaking, in part, about the oneness that is further perfected as the "other sheep" (10:16) and the "scattered children of God" (11:52) are gathered in. But this oneness must also refer to the oneness that is present throughout the life of the community as the community makes "every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace" (Eph 4:3), for it is something that the world can notice. So this is a spiritual oneness that comes from God, but it has to do with how the community of believers lives in the world.

Indeed, Jesus says the purpose of this oneness is that the world may believe that you have sent me (v. 21). Such belief is the key response Jesus has received from his disciples (v. 8), so this is a reference to those who are still in the world yet are becoming believers. To believe that the Father sent Jesus is to accept that the Father is as Jesus has revealed him to be and that Jesus is the one way to the Father. When Jesus repeats this purpose he changes the term from believe to know (v. 23), again echoing his earlier description of the disciples (v. 8). Because this knowing is parallel to believing, Jesus does not refer to some mere intellectual recognition of the fact that the Father sent the Son, but rather to the knowledge that is eternal life (v. 3).

Thus, the disciples are sent on mission just as Jesus was sent (v. 18), and the very purpose of their life together is to bear witness to the Father and the Son. This oneness flows from a common life that is characterized chiefly by love, and thus the world will see that the Father has loved the disciples as he has loved the Son (v. 23). In other words, the amazing transcendent love evident between the Father and the Son is not an exclusive glory that humans must be content only to admire from afar. The love the Father has for Jesus is the same love he has for believers, indeed for the whole world (3:16). For "God is love" (1 Jn 4:8, 16), and "there is only one love of God" (Brown 1970:772). The believers are to embody this love and thereby provide living proof of God's gracious character, which is his mercy, love and truth. They will be an advertisement, inviting people to join in this union with God. The love of God evident in the church is a revelation that there is a welcome awaiting those who will quit the rebellion and return home. Here is the missionary strategy of this Gospel--the community of disciples, indwelt with God's life and light and love, witnessing to the Father in the Son by the Spirit by word and deed, continuing to bear witness as the Son has done.

A great deal has been written about this passage regarding the meaning and implications of this oneness for the church (cf. Staton 1997). The main points in the text seem to be that this oneness is a spiritual reality, derived from sharing in the divine life of the Father and the Son and embodied in a particular community of human beings such that it can be evident to unbelievers. In other words, it is a sacrament, a reality in the human sphere participating in the divine sphere. So this is not simply some invisible church, although the actual institutional structure of this community is not discussed beyond the reference to the apostles' word (v. 20). The actual lack of unity among Christians throughout history, both between groups of Christians and within groups, tempts a believer to despair and holds Christ up to contempt by the world. Jesus' prayer shows that there can be no oneness apart from him, yet Christians disagree on who Jesus is and how one is to relate to him! This oneness clearly must come from God and is not something people of goodwill can manufacture. It is predicated on sharing in the divine glory (v. 22) and name (v. 26). Oneness can only come through being born from above, hearing the voice of the Good Shepherd and accepting the witness of the Paraclete, thereby revealing the glory of the Father within history.

This oneness is to take place in history in order that the world can continue to be confronted with a witness to the Father. Jesus' last petition, however, looks beyond this life to heaven (v. 24). Jesus is returning to the Father, and now he prays for those you have given me, repeating again the fact that these are his disciples only because of the Father's will (cf. vv. 2, 6, 9). This expression is more literally translated as "that which you have given me," another use of the neuter singular to speak of his disciples as a unit (see note on v. 2; cf. 6:37, 39; perhaps 10:29), which is particularly appropriate after his referring to their oneness. But the band of disciples is not a faceless group; it is composed of beloved individuals who each are indwelt by the Son (15:5), and so he immediately uses the masculine plural pronoun for them (kakeinoi; left out of the NIV). In this way the grammar captures both the oneness of the community and the distinct individuals within the one community.

He whose will is one with God's will now expresses that will when he says I want. What he wants is this community of individuals to be with him where he is. So those who are "in" him are also to be "with" him, again recognizing the distinction of persons. Union with God is not homogenization. Jesus' request that they be with him raises interesting questions, since as divine Son he is present everywhere (cf. Augustine In John 111.2). But the connection with Jesus' earlier teaching about returning to take them to be with him where he is (14:1-3) suggests strongly he is referring to heaven. This being the case, his prayer takes in the whole span of the believers' life, from then on into eternity. Specifically, he wants them to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. We have already seen his glory (v. 22; 1:14; cf. 2 Cor 3:18; 4:6), but there is a yet more complete vision of his glory awaiting believers. John later says that at his coming "we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is" (1 Jn 3:2; cf. Col 3:4). What begins at his second coming will continue on, for Jesus is talking not about his coming itself but about that which takes place afterwards. He has promised Peter, and, through him, his other disciples that they will follow him later (13:36), and here is what they will meet, the glory of the Lord--the glory that comes from the Father, who is the source of all, and that is a gift of love. That which Jesus has revealed in his earthly ministry is a mere glimpse of an eternal reality that existed before creation. In his prayer, Jesus has been speaking of the future from an eternal perspective. Here in his final petition he looks on ahead to the ultimate future.

Jesus Concludes His Prayer with a Summary and a Pledge (17:25-26)

Having looked ahead to the glory of heaven, Jesus returns to the present situation, though he sees it from his eternal perspective. Jesus summarizes the results of his ministry thus far: both his rejection by the world and his acceptance by the disciples. All the verbs in verse 25 are in the aorist tense, which, in the form used here, usually refers to the past. The NIV adopts a rarer use of the aorist and translates them in the present tense, a translation that is possible but that misses Jesus' eternal perspective.

Jesus begins with the bad news: the world did not know, or recognize, the Father. In contrast (though, kai), the good news is Jesus knew the Father and his disciples knew that the Father sent the Son. In contrast with the world's ignorance of the Father is not the disciples' knowledge of the Father, but their knowledge of the Son as sent by the Father. Again we see the primacy of Jesus' role. It is precisely in and through the Son that they know the Father, for the Son has made known (egnorisa, aorist) to them the Father's name (v. 26). Earlier in the prayer (vv. 6, 11-12) the name was an expression for the revelation brought by the Son that actually brings contact with God and not just information about him.

Jesus then pledges to continue to make the Father's name known to his disciples in the future. On one important level he refers here to his imminent Passion and resurrection, for these events are the climax of his revelation of the Father, which shows most clearly the love of God. On another level he is speaking of his continued presence among the believers and his continued revelation of the Father to them after his ascension. He is repeating his promise to be with them in his resurrection appearances (14:18-20) and beyond (14:21). His continued revelation parallels the activity of the Paraclete (16:12-15, 25).

The purpose of Jesus' making God's name known to them is not that they would have information about God, but that they would have intimacy in order that the love you have (egapesas, another aorist) for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them (v. 26). In his ministry he revealed the Father's love for them (v. 23), and in the future he will continue to help his disciples actually receive this love within each of them and amongst them as a community. But again, he himself is the point of contact. It is precisely by his being in them that they will receive the love of the Father, for it is the Father's love for the Son that they are enabled to share. The Son's coming to earth brought the presence of God's love, and his coming into the lives of believers also brings that love, for God is love. Our relationship with the Father will always be mediated through the Son, even in eternity. Meditation on such truths begins to give us a faint glimpse of the Father's glorifying the Son and the Son's glorifying the Father (v. 1). It also helps us understand why, in this final section of the prayer, Jesus addresses his Father as righteous (v. 25). All that Jesus has done and all that he will continue to do are in response to God's righteous will. He is righteous because he is truth itself and does only what is right. His purposes are perfect, reflecting his own characteristic life and light and love.

Jesus Arrested

1When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was an olive grove, and he and his disciples went into it.
2Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. 3So Judas came to the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons.
4Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, "Who is it you want?"
5"Jesus of Nazareth," they replied.
6"I am he," Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) When Jesus said, "I am he," they drew back and fell to the ground.
7Again he asked them, "Who is it you want?"
And they said, "Jesus of Nazareth."
8"I told you that I am he," Jesus answered. "If you are looking for me, then let these men go." 9This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: "I have not lost one of those you gave me."[1]
10Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest's servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant's name was Malchus.)
11Jesus commanded Peter, "Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?"

John 18:1-11


Jesus Is Arrested (18:1-11)

Jesus and his disciples go out of the city to the east, crossing the Kidron, which John refers to as a wadi (Valley, NIV; cheimarros, literally, "winter-flowing," since winter is the rainy season). This same word is used of the Kidron in the account of David's flight from Absalom (2 Sam 15:23 LXX), and John may well be alluding to that story (Westcott 1908:2:264; Brown 1994:1:125, 291). David was betrayed by his counselor Ahithophel, who later hangs himself (2 Sam 17:23), the only person in Scripture apart from Judas who does so. Thus David's sorrow and humiliation may be echoed in Jesus', though in Jesus' case he is actually in control, and this humiliation is part of his great victory (Hendriksen 1953:376, 383).

They go to a familiar place, an olive grove where Jesus often met with his disciples (vv. 1-2). In this way he is accepting the coming betrayal, since Judas . . . knew the place (v. 2). In the Synoptics it is called Gethsemane, meaning "oil press," which suggests an olive grove. While it is an olive grove, John does not actually call it an olive grove (despite the NIV); he calls it a garden (kepos). John notes that Jesus' death and resurrection also took place in a garden (19:41; 20:15). "The Passion and resurrection which effected the salvation of the world are contrasted with the Fall in the garden of Eden" (Hoskyns 1940b:604). Modern commentators express doubt that John would have the Garden of Eden in mind. However, the fact that he mentions the garden setting several times in the Passion and resurrection accounts suggests he does want to draw attention to this connection.

The group that came to arrest Jesus was composed of Roman soldiers, Jewish servants and an apostate apostle (v. 3). John will make it clear that both Jew and Gentile are guilty of the death of the Son of God. Jesus is about to die for the life of the world, and the whole world needs it. The Jewish forces that were sent were the same as those sent to arrest Jesus once before (7:32, 45-46). They were not a police force as such but "court servants at the disposal of the Sanhedrin when necessary for police purposes" (Brown 1994:1:249). The detachment of soldiers (speira) refers to a cohort, a group of 600 soldiers under a military tribune (chiliarchos, vv. 3, 12; NIV, commander). The entire cohort would not have been deployed on this mission, but there would have been a significant force. The festivals in Jerusalem were always politically volatile, and after the welcome Jesus had received there was good reason to expect trouble--or so it would have seemed to the Roman and Jewish authorities who understood Jesus so poorly. They bring torches and lanterns to search for the Light of the World; they bring weapons against the Prince of Peace (Hendriksen 1953:378).

They may well have expected to have to search in dark corners and meet with armed resistance once they had cornered the accused. But Jesus knows what is coming upon him (v. 4; 13:1), that he is going to engage the prince of this world one-on-one (cf. 14:30). So he goes out to meet them (v. 4) and asks, Who is it you want? This is not a question from ignorance, seeking an answer. Rather, it is like other questions asked by God that are intended to reveal a situation and bring people to action.

John does not mention Judas's kiss, which would have taken place just before or after Jesus' question. Judas here takes his place with those who have come out against Jesus (v. 5). The awkward statement that tells us where Judas is, which the NIV puts in parentheses, is an eyewitness detail branded into John's memory. We sense his shock at seeing Judas with them. John's continual reference to Judas as the betrayer all stems from this event. John makes it clear that Judas is not the revealer but rather that Jesus will identify himself. Enemies had not been able to lay their hands on Jesus before (7:30, 44-45; 8:59; 10:39; 12:36), and it is not Judas's presence that now brings success. Rather, it is now the Father's will.

They say they are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, and Jesus responds, I am he (v. 5, ego eimi). Here the most humble and human of Jesus' names is juxtaposed with the most exalted and divine. The two together are the cross hairs that target Jesus' identity: he is the human being from an insignificant, small town in Galilee who is also God. Jesus' self-identification has been at the heart of this Gospel, and this public act of identification produces dramatic effects. When he uses the divine I AM they drew back and fell to the ground (v. 6). People falling to the ground in the presence of God are mentioned elsewhere (for example, Ezek 1:28; Dan 10:9; Rev 1:17), but here the ones falling are his enemies rather than his worshipers. This reaction is closer to that of Pharaoh, who fell down as though dead when Moses said the name of God, as told by Artapanus, a pre-Christian Jewish apologist (Eusebius Preparation for the Gospel 9.27; Talbert 1992:233). This reaction is a reflection not of their hearts, but of Jesus' majesty. Here is a little preview of the moment in the future when every knee will bow to Jesus (Phil 2:10) and all things be brought into subjection to him (1 Cor 15:27; Phil 3:21), even those who do not own allegiance to him and thus for whom this submission is hell.

Jesus puts the question to them again (v. 7). The impression given by this passage is that they have been completely neutralized and that he must allow the events to proceed and give them permission to take him (cf. Talbert 1992:234). Amazingly, they answer the same as before: Jesus of Nazareth. They have just experienced the numinous, and it has not spoken to them at all. They are just doing their job, like those sent to investigate John the Baptist at the beginning of the Gospel (1:19-27). This repetition of the question "Whom do you seek?" emphasizes its importance, for it focuses on Jesus. It is also a question that searches the soul. The very first thing Jesus said in this Gospel was, literally, "What are you seeking?" (1:38), his question for the two disciples of John the Baptist, and their reply indicated they wanted to be with him. Now we see people seeking Jesus, but they do so not for their soul's sake. They have their own agenda, as many people do today. There are ways of seeking Jesus that do not bring life.

Jesus repeats the I AM but now allows the proceedings to continue by telling them to let his followers go (aphete, an imperative). He issues orders to those arresting him! Their power has just been shown to be insignificant compared to the power of his word, and now the fulfillment of his word is the operative force, not their designs (v. 9). The formula used to speak of the fulfillment of Scriptures from the Old Testament is now used of Jesus' own words. The Word himself, who created all that exists, has spoken of his protection for those the Father has given him (6:39; cf. 10:28; 17:12), and now he fulfills that word. The protection Jesus spoke of earlier referred to eternal salvation, and now we see that such protection includes occasions of temptation that threaten to overwhelm the disciples' faith (cf. Bultmann 1971:640). Here is Jesus as the Good Shepherd caring for his flock, a glimpse of the grace that is at work throughout the Passion as it has been throughout the ministry. The temptation the disciples face here is an extreme case of what all temptation represents. And the Lord's protection is as necessary in the day to day assaults as it is in this great test. It is not without reason that our Lord commanded us to pray daily not to be led into temptation (Mt 6:13 par. Lk 11:4; cf. Mt 26:41 par. Mk 14:38 par. Lk 22:46).

Jesus has demonstrated that he has complete power over these adversaries, and he has expressed his will that the disciples be let go, but Peter still thinks he has to resist with force (v. 10). The Synoptics tell us there were only two swords, and we might have guessed that Peter would have one of them. He may have been emboldened by their having fallen to the ground. But he does not go after one of the soldiers or one of the Jewish force, but rather the slave (doulos) of the high priest. He takes off the man's right ear! John does not mention that Jesus healed the slave's ear (Lk 22:51), though this would account for Peter's not being arrested or killed on the spot. John does, however, add that the man's name was Malchus. John was known to the household of the high priest (v. 16) and knew this man and his family (v. 26). We do not know how well John knew these men, but such connections add poignancy to the scene.

The fact that Peter only got the man's right ear suggests several possibilities: that Peter was left-handed, or that he attacked the man from behind, that the man moved or that Peter simply had bad aim. In any case, Peter's boldness is as great and as obvious as his misunderstanding. He is not at all in sync with God's will, and this isn't the first time he is out of step (cf. 13:6-9; Mt 16:22-23 par. Mk 8:32-33). Jesus says, Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me? (v. 11). Jesus is willing to receive all that the Father gives him, both the disciples (v. 9) and the suffering.

The image of the cup is used in the Old Testament to denote suffering (Ps 75:8) and, in particular, the wrath of God (Is 51:17, 22; Jer 25:15-29; 49:12; Lam 4:21; Ezek 23:31-34; Hab 2:16; cf. Rev 14:10; 16:19). John has not included the prayer of agony in the garden in which Jesus asked that, if possible, the cup be removed from him (Mt 26:39 par. Mk 14:36 par. Lk 22:42). But John includes this later reference to the cup, which reveals the conclusion of the earlier agony. "The struggle in Gethsemane is over. Jesus no longer prays that the cup . . . may pass from him" (Hendriksen 1953:382). The Son's humility and obedience continue to manifest the glory of God and his pattern of life with God.

Jesus Taken to Annas

12Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander and the Jewish officials arrested Jesus. They bound him 13and brought him first to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. 14Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it would be good if one man died for the people.

John 18:12-14


Jesus Is Taken to Annas, the High Priest (18:12-14)

John describes Jesus' arrest and binding as the activity of the whole party that has come out against him, both Gentile and Jew (v. 12). John will make it clear that the Jewish authorities have special responsibility for Jesus' death (19:11), but the Gentiles have a share as well. Here we have the shocking sight of the one who brings freedom to mankind (8:31-36) being bound by representatives of the whole human race.

They took Jesus first to Annas, probably the most respected and powerful of the Jewish authorities at that time. He had held the office of high priest earlier (A.D. 6-15), and his influence continued through his son-in-law Caiaphas, the current high priest (v. 13) and through his five sons, who had also been high priest for various lengths of time (Josephus Antiquities of the Jews 18.2.1-2; 20.9.1; cf. Chilton 1992:257). Annas was the head of a dynasty, which probably accounts for John's reference to him as high priest (vv. 15-16, 19, 22, cf. Acts 4:6), even though John is clear that Caiaphas is the one holding that office at the time (vv. 13, 24).

There seem to be both historical and theological reasons why John includes this scene of Jesus' questioning before Annas. John mentions "another disciple" who is "known to the high priest" (v. 15) and his household (vv. 16, 26). As with the references to the Beloved Disciple, this is most likely a reference to himself. Like the Beloved Disciple, this other disciple is unnamed, closely associated with Peter and characterized as having special knowledge. It is unclear whether John is saying that he knew the high priest personally or that he knew just some in his household. He is not described as speaking to Annas himself, but he does have personal knowledge of the servants. Perhaps he had contacts through marketing fish, though in that society this would not itself imply limited social contact (cf. Brown 1970:823; Carson 1991:582).

Whatever the nature of his familiarity with Annas, John had other contact with him later when he himself was on trial (Acts 4:6). John had to bear witness before this man, and his bearing witness is the main theme that comes through in this story. He can bear witness to the Passion because he was there (cf. Ridderbos 1997:581). John does not narrate the scattering of the disciples (cf. 16:32), but presumably it took place here at the arrest. John was separated from Jesus at that point, but we now discover it was only for a brief time. He and Peter recover and return to see what transpires. In this way, John has not missed much of the action and thus is able to bear witness to the whole story. Unlike Peter, he is inside the high priest's palace and witnesses the whole of the Passion. This theme of witness is also the focal point of Jesus' exchange with Annas (vv. 20-23). Thus this particular story is important for John, both personally and for the theme it brings out.

John concludes his introduction to Jesus' interrogation by Annas by identifying Annas as the father-in-law of Caiaphas (v. 13). John refers back to an earlier meeting of the Sanhedrin (11:47-53) and in particular to Caiaphas' prophetic statement that it would be good if one man died for the people (v. 14). This allusion reminds the reader of the reason for Jesus' death. John uses Caiaphas' own statement as a caption under this picture of the Passion, providing the interpretation of the cross as surely as does the title that Pilate will require to be nailed above the head of Jesus (19:19-22). This death is for the sake of the very people who are causing it.

Peter's First Denial

15Simon Peter and another disciple were following Jesus. Because this disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the high priest's courtyard, 16but Peter had to wait outside at the door. The other disciple, who was known to the high priest, came back, spoke to the girl on duty there and brought Peter in.
17"You are not one of his disciples, are you?" the girl at the door asked Peter.
He replied, "I am not."
18It was cold, and the servants and officials stood around a fire they had made to keep warm. Peter also was standing with them, warming himself.
John 18:15-18


Peter Denies He Is a Follower of Jesus (18:15-18)

Peter and John follow as Jesus is brought before Annas. John's familiarity with the high priest, or at least with his household, enables him to enter with Jesus and to get Peter admitted also (vv. 15-16). The one who reclined next to Jesus a few hours earlier at the meal (13:23) continues to be close to him. But his going back out to bring Peter in shows that he, like his master, is also concerned for others, in particular this fellow believer. The love evident in this gesture reveals John's character as a true disciple and as one to whose care Jesus can entrust other disciples, indeed even his mother (19:27).

Presumably John returns to the room where Jesus is being questioned, which leaves Peter in the courtyard with the servants and others. It is not said whether Peter was unable to enter the room with John or whether he chose to remain outside. The latter seems unlikely, given Peter's character, but the arrest has shaken him. He is now sifted, beginning with a question from the woman who attended the door (v. 17). She asks, literally, "You also are not one of the disciples of this man, are you?" Her expression "this man" (tou anthropou toutou, left out of the NIV) seems to suggest some disdain, as does the use of me ("not"), here with the sense, "surely not you too." But, of course, there would be little other reason for a stranger to be there in the courtyard in the middle of a cold night. Furthermore, the fact that she says "you also" (kai sy, also missing from the NIV) most likely indicates that she knows John is a disciple of Jesus.

In this account, therefore, it seems to be Peter's association with John, the unnamed disciple, that draws attention to his relation to Jesus. John himself shows no concern about her feelings regarding his discipleship, for he not only was admitted by her, but also came back to get Peter in. While Peter's attack with the sword (18:10) may have made him fearful of being recognized, he is not in a position of legal difficulty, since there is no warrant for his arrest. Nor is there indication that he was physically threatened by this woman or the others. He has no such excuses for his denial. He who a few hours earlier had said he would die for Jesus (13:37) now denies any association with him purely out of fear of what people would think. John, like Luke, is gentle in his account of Peter's denials, leaving out the curses and oaths he used (Mt 26:74 par. Mk 14:71); and John will give prominence to Peter's restoration (21:15-19). But this does not mean that John takes the denial less seriously than Matthew or Mark do. The very terms of the restoration ("Do you love me?") show the enormity of the denials and also stand in contrast to the love that John shows in this scene as he sticks close to Jesus even in his disgrace.

After Peter's first denial, John's narrative switches back to what is going on inside between Annas and Jesus. Peter is outside warming himself at a charcoal fire (anthrakia, v. 18). A charcoal fire gives off warmth but little light. This dim fire, along with the darkness in the garden, helps account for Peter's not being recognized immediately by the relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off (v. 26). The darkness of the courtyard may also have a symbolic significance, for it means Peter is outside in the half-light while John is inside with the Light of the World. Peter is not denigrated in this Gospel, but he does "serve as a foil for the behavior of another disciple who is never deflected from his following of Jesus" (Brown 1994:1:623). In the half-light, separated from Jesus, Peter encounters temptation for which he does not have the resources to resist. The only hope for any of us in the time of temptation is to remain close to Jesus.

The High Priest Questions Jesus

19Meanwhile, the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching.
20"I have spoken openly to the world," Jesus replied. "I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret. 21Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said."
22When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby struck him in the face. "Is this the way you answer the high priest?" he demanded.
23"If I said something wrong," Jesus replied, "testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?" 24Then Annas sent him, still bound, to Caiaphas the high priest.

John 18:19-24


Annas Questions Jesus (18:19-24)

Back inside, Annas is beginning his interrogation. This is not an actual trial; John has not confused this encounter with the meeting with the Sanhedrin. Here there are no witnesses, no jury and no sentence. This is more like "a police interrogation of a newly arrested criminal before any formal trial procedures are begun" (Brown 1970:834; cf. 1994:1:412, 423-25; Robinson 1985:248-50). Annas asks Jesus about his disciples (v. 19), reflecting the Sanhedrin's earlier concern over Jesus' popularity (11:48), a popularity that can have only increased after Jesus entered Jerusalem attended by a great crowd. Indeed, some of the Pharisees said it looked like the whole world had gone after him (12:19).

Annas also asks Jesus about his teaching (v. 19). He seems to want Jesus to incriminate himself as a false prophet (Beasley-Murray 1987:324-25) or at least as a false teacher (Robinson 1985:259; Brown 1994:1:414). But Jesus will not be trapped in this way. Indeed, in later law it was illegal to have "an accused person convict himself" (Brown 1970:826), and this rule may have applied at this time also. Furthermore, Jesus has already completed his public teaching regarding himself (see comment on 12:34-35). Only one last statement of Jesus' teaching remains, but that is reserved for the Gentile Pilate (18:33-37; 19:11). So Jesus tells Annas to check with those who have heard him, since he has taught quite openly (v. 20-21). In this way he heightens Annas' anxiety. The very fact that Jesus has spoken openly and that there are plenty of people who are familiar with his teaching is what concerns Annas. That Jesus does nothing to assure Annas that his teaching is kosher would also increase the high priest's fears. Indeed, Jesus shows chutzpah at this point, which is so unlike the way others come cringing before the Sanhedrin (cf. Josephus Antiquities of the Jews 14.172), showing Annas that Jesus is indeed a danger.

Jesus' appeal to the witness of those who had heard him is essentially a demand for a fair trial (Brown 1970:826), since in Jewish law the witnesses are questioned, not the accused (see comment on 5:31; cf. Beasley-Murray 1987:324). Jesus has completed his witness by word. There remains only the climax of all his ministry as he witnesses to the Father through his death, resurrection and ascension. It is now up to those who have heard him to bear witness to him. Such remains the case today. His abiding presence remains with believers, but those who abide in him are to bear witness to him before the world. "The author insists that the teaching of Jesus must be known through attention to His disciples, who by the guidance of the Spirit preserve and interpret His words (cf. 2:22; 14:25; 16:4ff.). A true judgement of the world upon the Christ depends upon the fidelity of His disciples" (Hoskyns 1940b:610).

One of the officials (a "servant," hyperetes) hits Jesus and says, Is this the way you answer the high priest? (v. 22). Since Jesus is still bound there is no way for him to defend himself. The more severe abuse that Jesus suffers later before the Sanhedrin (Mt 26:67-68 par. Mk 14:65 par. Lk 22:63-65) is not recounted by John. This blow was more an insult than it was physically damaging (Brown 1970: 826). It highlights Jesus' dignity and boldness as well as his respect for the truth, rather than for mere office holders. His reply to the servant stresses this issue of truth: If I said something wrong . . . testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me? This question applies to all the opposition he has experienced throughout his ministry (cf. 8:46).In essence, Jesus' question is a final act of grace extended toward a representative of his opponents. But Annas does not accept the offer to consider the truth of Jesus. Instead he sends Jesus, still bound, to Caiaphas (v. 24). From the Synoptics it seems there was a preliminary phase in which Jesus was taken before Caiaphas and a quorum of the Sanhedrin at night (Mt 26:57-75 par. Mk 14:53-72 par. Lk 22:54-65) and then a more formal trial at dawn before the full Sanhedrin (Mt 27:1 par. Mk 15:1 par. Lk 22:66-71). John signals where all of this fits in his account (vv. 24, 28), but he does not recount it, presumably having assumed it was familiar to his readers. In John's Gospel, therefore, this scene before Annas is the final encounter between Jesus and his Jewish opponents. A high priest, as Annas is known in this Gospel, has rejected the true high priest. From this point on, all contact between Jesus and his opponents is mediated through Pilate.

Peter's Second and Third Denials

25As Simon Peter stood warming himself, he was asked, "You are not one of his disciples, are you?"
He denied it, saying, "I am not."
26One of the high priest's servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, challenged him, "Didn't I see you with him in the olive grove?" 27Again Peter denied it, and at that moment a rooster began to crow.

John 18:25-27


Peter Denies Jesus Two More Times (18:25-27)

Jesus has stood up to this powerful leader, but when John's narrative switches back to Peter at the fire we find him continuing to deny that he is a disciple of Jesus. "They said to him, `You also are not one of his disciples are you?'" (v. 25). "They said" (eipon) refers either to an unspecified group or, as in the NIV, to an unspecified individual (cf. Wallace 1996:402-3). When this unspecified group or individual confronts him he denies any connection with Jesus. Then there comes a very specific accusation from a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off: Didn't I see you with him in the olive grove? (v. 26). Here an eyewitness testifies to what he has seen--the very thing Peter is supposed to be doing with regard to Jesus. Instead of bearing witness to Jesus, he will not even admit to being Jesus' disciple. Just then the rooster crows, bringing to fulfillment Jesus' prediction that "before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!" (13:38). John does not write of Peter's grief at this point (cf. Mt 26:75 par. Mk 14:72 par. Lk 22:62), waiting instead to recount the grief Peter experiences at his restoration later (21:17).

The main points of the story of Peter's denial are the same in all four Gospels, but the Gospels differ in detail (cf. Brown 1970:836-42). One main difference is the place of Peter's denials (Beasley-Murray 1987:235-36): the Synoptics have Peter in Caiaphas' courtyard (Mt 26:57-58 par. Mk 14:53-54 par. Lk 22:54) whereas in John it is Annas' courtyard. Unless one or more of the accounts is inaccurate, it would seem Annas and Caiaphas either lived in the same place or at least did official business in the same place (Alford 1980:888).

The other main difference is the timing of Peter's denials. In the Synoptics it is during the session with the Sanhedrin, yet in John it is earlier, in association with Jesus' meeting with Annas. Efforts to harmonize such differences have produced suggestions that Peter denied Jesus more than three times or that the two denials in our present passage are actually a complex account of the third denial, John having left out the second denial. Such solutions do not do justice to John's account, in particular to the prediction that speaks of three denials (13:38). Instead, these differences reflect the different emphases of the evangelists and their own form of precision, which differs from that of most North Americans, among others. In particular, their reordering of material in order to bring out nuances of significance--for example, the difference in the sequence of Jesus' temptations (cf. Mt 4:1-11 with Lk 4:1-13)--is jarring to some folk. It would seem, however, that the case at hand has John juxtaposing Peter's denials and Jesus' own response to Annas. "By making Peter's denials simultaneous with Jesus' defense before Annas, John has constructed a dramatic contrast wherein Jesus stands up to his questioners and denies nothing, while Peter cowers before his questioners and denies everything" (Brown 1970:842). The foil Peter provides helps highlight Jesus' regal strength and authority, the hallmark of John's portrait of Jesus in his passion.

28Then the Jews led Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness the Jews did not enter the palace; they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. 29So Pilate came out to them and asked, "What charges are you bringing against this man?"
30"If he were not a criminal," they replied, "we would not have handed him over to you."
31Pilate said, "Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law."
32"But we have no right to execute anyone," the Jews objected. This happened so that the words Jesus had spoken indicating the kind of death he was going to die would be fulfilled.

John 18:28-32


Jesus Is Handed Over to Pilate by the Jewish Opponents (18:28-32)

Jesus is brought to Pilate at the praetorium (NIV, the palace of the Roman governor, v. 28), which was located either at the Antonia Fortress at the northwest corner of the temple or, perhaps more likely, at Herod's old palace to the west of the temple, near the Jaffa gate (Pixner 1992; Brown 1994:1:705-10). The opponents bring him early in the morning, which would not have inconvenienced Pilate because it was common for Roman officials to begin work very early and complete their business by ten or eleven in the morning (Sherwin-White 1963:45).

The Jewish opponents refuse to enter the praetorium to avoid ceremonial uncleanness (v. 28). There is no law in the Old Testament against entering a Gentile's home, but in later teaching it is laid down that "the dwelling-places of gentiles are unclean" (m. Oholot 18:7; cf. Brown 1994:1:745; Beasley-Murray 1987:327). The opponents sought to avoid defilement because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover (v. 28). Since Jesus has already eaten with his disciples a meal that the Synoptics say was the Passover (Mt 26:17 par. Mk 14:12 par. Lk 22:8; 22:15), this verse raises questions. Many interpreters argue either that John has shifted the chronology in order to have Jesus dying at the very time the Passover lambs are being sacrificed--making the point dramatically that he is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (for example, Lindars 1972:444-46; Barrett 1978:48-51)--or that his chronology is historically accurate (especially Brown 1994:2:1351-73; cf. Robinson 1985:147-51) and therefore the meal he shared with his disciples was not Passover.

Others have attempted to maintain that the meal in all four Gospels is the Passover. One solution suggests that John is referring here not to the Passover meal itself, but to the Feast of Unleavened Bread, a week-long celebration that took place in conjunction with it. This longer celebration can be referred to as Passover, as it is, for example, in Luke: "Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching" (22:1; cf. Josephus Antiquities of the Jews 14.21). These Jewish opponents, then, wish to be able to take part in the seven-day feast about to begin (cf. Carson 1991:589; Ridderbos 1997:457). Alternatively, some suggest that "John has in mind the lunchtime meal known as the chagigah, celebrated during midday after the first evening of Passover" (Blomberg 1987:177). But although the term Passover may be applied to the whole sequence, including the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the expression "eat the Passover" is not a natural way to refer to keeping the whole feast nor to eating the chagigah, but rather a way to refer to the Passover meal specifically. For example, the references in the Synoptics just cited use exactly the expression here (esthio to pascha) to speak of sharing in the Passover meal. Furthermore, there is no evidence the term Passover was used to refer to the Feast of Unleavened Bread apart from the Passover itself (Morris 1971:778-79, but cf. Blomberg 1987:177 n. 2).

Another solution to the discrepancy is that different calendars were followed. The main calendar used was a lunisolar calendar, but some groups, apparently including the community at Qumran, used a solar calendar of 364 days (cf. Schürer 1973-1987:1:587-601; Vanderkam 1992). The main drawback to this solution is the lack of evidence for Jesus' having followed the solar calendar (cf. Vanderkam 1992:820). The other main proposal is that the Galileans and the Pharisees reckoned days from sunrise to sunrise, while Judeans did so from sunset to sunset. This means the Judeans, including these opponents, would slaughter their lambs late Friday afternoon, whereas Jesus and his disciples had theirs slaughtered late Thursday afternoon (Hoehner 1977:83-90; cf. Morris 1971:782-85). It has also been suggested that the slaughtering of the lambs actually took place over two days because of the volume of lambs involved (Hoehner 1977:84). According to these solutions, Jesus has already eaten Passover, but the opponents have yet to do so. A major drawback to theories of different days for celebrating Passover is "the lack of any hint of such a distinction in the gospels themselves" (Blomberg 1987:176-77).

Whatever the solution to this puzzle, the irony of the opponents' concern is evident. They wish to remain ritually pure even while seeking to kill someone by the agency of the Romans. They avoid defilement while bringing about the death of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (1:29), the root defilement that prevents one from intimacy with God and sharing in his life. Perhaps most ironic is the fact that their very act is a sin that defiles in this deep sense yet contributes to the cleansing of their sin and the sin of the whole world.

Pilate asks for the charges against Jesus (v. 29), and from the Jewish leaders' response it seems they were upset by this request: If he were not a criminal . . . we would not have handed him over to you (v. 30). They wanted Pilate simply to take their word for it and not begin his own investigation. Pilate is not inclined to do them such a favor and tells them to judge Jesus by their own law. In other words, if none of the charges mentioned are relevant to Roman rule, then this case is a matter for their own legal proceedings. A reluctance to get involved in matters of Jewish law was common among Roman governors (Sherwin-White 1965:112-13). It is unclear whether or not Pilate knew the opponents had already judged Jesus. John has omitted a description of the Jewish trial, but judging Jesus by their law is exactly what they have been doing throughout the Gospel.

Long before now they had come to the conclusion that Jesus had to be eliminated (7:19-20; 8:40, 44, 59; 10:31; 11:8, 16, 50). This is still their aim, and their specific request of Pilate now becomes clear when they respond that they do not have the right to execute people (v. 31). This could refer to Old Testament prohibitions against killing (Ex 20:13, Hoskyns 1940b:616; Michaels 1989:314), but more likely it refers to limitations imposed by the Romans (Brown 1994:1:747-48). Among the Romans, "the capital power was the most jealously guarded of all the attributes of government, not even entrusted to the principal assistants of the governors" (Sherwin-White 1963:36). There were occasions when Jews did put people to death through mob violence (for example the stoning of Stephen, Acts 7:58-60). And they were given permission to execute any Gentile, even a Roman, who entered the temple's inner courts (Josephus Jewish Wars 5.193-94; 6.124-26). But mob violence has not succeeded against Jesus, and his case is not one for which Rome has given permission for execution. Presumably they could request permission to kill Jesus themselves, but this would limit them to the methods of stoning, burning, beheading and strangling, at least according to later law, which may have been in effect in the first century (m. Sanhedrin 7:1). They seem set, however, on having Rome execute Jesus, for then it would be by crucifixion. They probably want him crucified (19:6, 15) not only because it was a particularly brutal and painful form of death, but also because it would signify that Jesus is accursed by God (Deut 21:23; cf. Gal 3:13, Robinson 1985:257 n. 147; Beasley-Murray 1987:328). In John's Gospel the focus is on Jesus as the revealer of God. His opponents have rejected that claim and desire his death in order to vindicate their conclusion.

John, however, sees this desire as a fulfillment of Jesus' statement that he would die by being lifted up from the earth (v. 32; 12:32-34). "Both Jewish accusers and Roman judge are actors in a drama scripted by a divine planner" (Brown 1994:1:748). John's note reminds us both of Jesus' identity as the Word whose words are God's words, which will be fulfilled, and of the significance of this death: "I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself" (12:32). Even the actions of his enemies are used to bear witness to the glory of his identity and of what he is in the process of accomplishing.

33Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, "Are you the king of the Jews?"
34"Is that your own idea," Jesus asked, "or did others talk to you about me?"
35"Am I a Jew?" Pilate replied. "It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done?"
36Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place."
37"You are a king, then!" said Pilate.
Jesus answered, "You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me."
38"What is truth?" Pilate asked. With this he went out again to the Jews and said, "I find no basis for a charge against him. 39But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release 'the king of the Jews'?"
40They shouted back, "No, not him! Give us Barabbas!" Now Barabbas had taken part in a rebellion.

John 18:33-40


Pilate Questions Jesus (18:33-38)

In this second of the seven scenes  we have the heart of the Roman interrogation. In a series of four questions Pilate probes the key topic of this Gospel--the identity and mission of Jesus. Here is Jesus' final teaching concerning himself before his resurrection.

We are not told what charges the Jewish opponents brought against Jesus to induce Pilate to consider condemning him to death. In the Jewish trial Caiaphas had asked, "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?" and Jesus said yes (Mt 26:63-64 par. Mk 14:61-62 par. Lk 22:67-70). John does not recount this exchange, although its substance is central to his revelation of Jesus throughout the Gospel and John does seem to allude to the exchange itself later (19:7, Beasley-Murray 1987:329). Presumably the opponents translated the matter for Pilate, saying that Jesus claimed to be the king of the Jews. This was obviously a political title and had even been used of Herod the Great (Josephus Antiquities of the Jews 14.385; 16.311). It was a claim that Pilate would have to take seriously, especially given the revolutionary setting in Israel, in which many desired the overthrow of Rome.

Many think Pilate's question expresses incredulity: Are you the King of the Jews? But more likely he is simply doing his job by putting the charge to the accused, using direct questions in keeping with Roman procedure (Sherwin-White 1965:105). What would he have expected to hear in response? Perhaps either cringing denial or stormy denunciations of Rome. The answer he gets is something quite different from either of these responses. Jesus neither affirms nor denies his identity as king, but he responds like a king. He speaks of his kingdom and quite calmly focuses the attention on Pilate, asking a question that tests Pilate's heart (v. 34). He is speaking to him as a human being, not as the Roman governor. Is he personally engaged, or is this just a formality? Such a question should signal to Pilate that he is dealing with someone who is not speaking merely on a political level. As seen earlier (e.g., see comments on 1:19-28), such personal interest is necessary to be able to recognize one come from God and to respond appropriately.

Pilate does not see how this question could be of interest to him since he is not a Jew (v. 35). He has not gone looking for Jesus, but rather Jesus has been handed over to him by his own nation and the high priests. Like the woman of Samaria and other people who have encountered Jesus, Pilate does not understand the full meaning of what Jesus says because he does not realize whom he is speaking with. And as he did with others earlier, Jesus now helps Pilate understand who he is and what he is offering.

Pilate asks what Jesus has done (v. 35). Jesus follows his common practice in this Gospel, for he does not directly address the question put to him, but in fact he gives a profound answer. Instead of speaking of what he has done he speaks of his kingdom (v. 36). This word only occurs one other place in John (3:3, 5), unlike in the Synoptics, where "kingdom" is Jesus' major theme. In Jewish thinking "kingdom" does not refer to a territory; it is an active concept referring to rule. "Kingdom of God," then, means God is king (cf. Kuhn 1964b:571-72). In the Gospels it includes also the realm of God's rule, in the sense not of a territory but of the community under his rule. While Jesus has not used this word much in this Gospel, all that he has done and said have been manifestations of God's rule and Jesus' own kingship. In this sense, "the whole Gospel is concerned with the kingship of God in Jesus" (Beasley-Murray 1987:330). Jesus has said a spiritual rebirth is necessary to even see the kingdom--the resources of this world are not sufficient (3:3, 5). Now Jesus continues this emphasis by saying his kingdom is not of this world. His kingdom is otherworldly because he himself is not of this world and neither are his followers (17:14, 16). He and his disciples have their source in God and reflect God's own life and character.

Both the divine source and the quality of his kingdom are evident, he says, in the fact that his disciples did not fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews (v. 36). Peter, of course, did try to do so and was out of step with Jesus' and the Father's will, as Jesus told him (18:11). Jesus' response to the opposition from the Jewish leaders had a divine source for it was determined by God's rule. Also, his response manifested God's characteristic gracious love. "Jesus' kingdom is based on something other than . . . power or protection. It is based on his self-surrender, on his offering of himself for the sin of the world" (Ridderbos 1997:595).

Thus, Jesus is working on a different level, one not of this world. Throughout the Gospel it is seen that he does not respond merely to stimuli from the environment; rather he acts in accordance with his Father's direction. So in a sense Jesus does answer Pilate's question about what he has done not by describing his teachings and signs, but by referring to his acceptance of suffering. If one does not realize who he is and why he has allowed himself to be handed over by his Jewish opponents, however, his glory is not evident. Nevertheless, his arrest, and everything else about him, bears witness that his kingdom is "not from here" (ouk estin enteuthen, paraphrased in the NIV as from another place). It is from the Father. If Pilate had an open heart he would have picked up this hint and asked where Jesus' kingdom is from, but he does not.

Instead, he focuses on Jesus' reference to my kingdom. My kingdom (he basileia he eme) is repeated three times (one of them omitted in the NIV), and the expression my servants uses the same Greek construction that is used to emphasize the pronoun my (hoi hyperetai hoi emoi). His kingdom is quite distinct from other kingdoms, but he does indeed have a kingdom. Pilate picks up on this emphasis and presses his earlier question, again in keeping with the Roman practice of questioning the defendant three times (Sherwin-White 1965:105), and says, You are a king, then! (v. 37).

The grace and humility evident in the Passion itself comes through also in the gentleness of Jesus' dealing with this Roman politician (cf. Chrysostom In John 84.1). Jesus replies, "You say that I am a king" (v. 37). This is often taken as an affirmative, almost as if Jesus were saying, "You said it!" (cf. NIV). This interpretation is possible (Beasley-Murray 1987:317); however, it is more likely that Jesus is saying, "That's your term." He is clearly claiming kingship, but he does not commit to the label of "king," probably because it is loaded with misunderstanding (6:15; cf. 1:49; 12:13). It is very much a term "of this world"! His reticence here is similar to his attitude toward other titles, such as "Messiah," elsewhere in the Gospels.

Jesus' further explanation reveals that he is king in a sense that transcends all other kings: for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world (v. 37). Given what this Gospel has revealed of Jesus' identity, this is a profound statement of pre-existence (for example, 1:1-18; 3:13; 9:39). But if Pilate thought about what Jesus said at all, he would probably hear it only on a human level, that Jesus was claiming to be like any other child who was born a prince, in line to become king. Even this would be striking, since there was no such dynastic line functioning in Israel. But Pilate may not have gotten that far in his thinking, for Jesus says that he came into the world not to be king of the Jews, but to testify to the truth. This language makes obvious the contrast between his identity and mission on the one hand and the falsehood of his opponents on the other. "He is the king of Truth, and He manifests His royal power not by force, but by the witness He bears to the Truth (3:32; 5:33; cf. 3 Jn 3)" (Hoskyn 1940b:619). The truth he refers to is the truth of God.

By using the term "truth" rather than "God," Jesus is using language less likely to be misunderstood by Pilate. For he is still dealing here with Pilate himself: Everyone on the side of truth listens to me (v. 37), he says--everyone, whether Jew or Gentile. Jesus continues to walk through this trial on his own terms. Pilate thinks of Jesus as a defendant, but Jesus is taking the part of a witness (see comment on 5:31; cf. 1 Tim 6:13), who "has come to testify against the rule of the lie and for `the truth,' that is, for God and for God's claim on the world" (Ridderbos 1997:596). So Jesus is asking for Pilate to pass judgment not on him as king of the Jews, but on him as the revealer of truth. And he puts pressure on Pilate, for if he does not decide in favor of Jesus, he will judge himself as not being on the side of truth. This expression is, more literally, "of the truth" (ek tes aletheias); it refers to one's inner disposition as tuned to the truth, able to hear the voice of truth (cf. 8:47; 10:3). "Absolute truth is a very uncomfortable thing when we come in contact with it" (Ward 1994:30).

Pilate's response, What is truth? (v. 38), is probably not a great philosophical remark, but a dismissal of the whole subject as irrelevant. Pilate has heard enough to determine that Jesus is not a political threat, and, therefore, he has gotten from the interview what he was after. Jesus has sown seed, but it has fallen on a beaten path. Pilate does not listen to Jesus, so, according to what Jesus has just said, he is not of the truth. The judge has been judged and found self-condemned through his response to Jesus. The Jewish opponents had come to this same place during the course of Jesus' ministry. So now both Jew and Gentile have been given a chance to respond to the one come from God, and they have rejected him.Jesus' statement that his kingdom is not of this world does not mean that it has no impact in this world. Throughout the Gospels Jesus makes it clear that his kingdom is both otherworldly in its source and quality and present here in this world. Its focal point is the body of believers, who, through their union with the Father in the Son by the Spirit, are not of this world (cf. Augustine In John 115.2). Because it is a kingdom, it has to do with relationships, relationships inspired by God's own presence and manifesting his characteristic love. And because this network of relations is embodied in a community present in this world, it is expressed institutionally. Our passage does not indicate the shape of this institution, but it is clear that it is not of this world and that it is centered in the truth of God revealed by Jesus. These two criteria stand in judgment of much of the life of the church throughout the ages. All should be evaluated in the light of the pattern of life manifested in Jesus and revealed by him regarding the Godhead of the Father, the Son and the Spirit.

Pilate Finds Jesus Innocent (18:38-40)

In scene three  Pilate returns outside and announces that he finds Jesus innocent, that, as the NIV well expresses it, he finds no basis for a charge against him (v. 38). Luke tells us that the crowd at this point insists Jesus has been causing trouble all over Judea, beginning in Galilee (Lk 23:5). This gives Pilate an excuse to send Jesus to Herod, an occasion that only Luke records (Lk 23:6-12). This additional material is helpful because with just John's account it is not clear why Pilate does not simply release Jesus once he finds him innocent. John seems to refer to the crowd's shouting at this point when he says, "therefore, again (palin) they cried out saying" (v. 40). The crowd's insistence leads Pilate to offer to release Jesus, in keeping with your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover (v. 39). There is no other evidence for this custom (Brown 1994:1:814-20), but there is "no good reason for doubting it" (Robinson 1985:261; cf. Horbury 1972:66-67).

Pilate's use of the term king of the Jews (v. 39) is obviously sarcastic since he has just said Jesus poses no political threat. As is so often the case with sin, when one is succumbing to temptation one is given opportunities to come to one's senses and turn back (cf. 1 Cor 10:13; Ward 1994:44-50). Pilate's question can be seen as a chance for the opponents to renounce this determination to eliminate Jesus. But, of course, it is far too late. The Jewish opponents are rejecting Jesus precisely as their king.

So the crowd cries out again (or shouted back, NIV) that they want Barabbas, not Jesus (v. 40). Such dispute between a crowd and a Roman governor might seem strange, but it was not that unusual. Indeed, "Roman jurists expressly warn magistrates against submitting to popular clamour" (Horbury 1972:67). The picture of Pilate in Josephus and Philo is of a violent man who hated the Jews, which would lead one not to expect him to make any such offer to the crowd. But their picture of Pilate is probably overdrawn (cf. Brown 1994:1:693-705). Both authors, in fact, cite an instance when Pilate did give in to Jewish pressure (Josephus Antiquities of the Jews 18.55-59 par. Josephus Jewish Wars 2.169-174; Philo Legatio ad Gaium 302). The present occasion, of course, will play out the same way.

John describes Barabbas as a lestes, which the NIV renders by saying he was one who had taken part in a rebellion. There were many sorts of revolutionary leaders in Israel in the first century (cf. Brown 1994:1:679-93; Horsley and Hanson 1985; Horsley 1992). The term lestes is not used to refer to such people during the time of Jesus, but it is so used later in the century, after the revolt of A.D. 66 (Brown 1994:1:687). However, two of the other Gospels mention that Barabbas was indeed involved in an insurrection (Mk 15:7; Lk 23:19), so this is probably how John is using the term. The crowd demands the release of one under arrest for his threat against Rome. Their decision is very much "of this world."

There is a stark contrast between Barabbas, a violent man concerned with this world's politics, albeit religious politics, and Jesus, whose kingdom is not of this world, though it is active in this world. There is also irony in the name Barabbas itself, since it means "son of Abba"--the word Abba, "father," was used as a proper name (Brown 1994:1:799-800), but, especially in John's Gospel, Jesus is known as the Son of the Father. The crowd was choosing between two different approaches to liberation as represented by two men identified, in different ways, as "son of Abba." Here is the deceptiveness of sin that has been evident since the Garden of Eden. There is a path that looks right and seems to be of God, yet it is actually against him and his ways. The people choose their own path of liberation rather than God's, and they therefore choose "not the Savior, but the murderer; not the Giver of life, but the destroyer" (Augustine In John 116.1). Every time we choose sin we do the same, whether the sin is blatant or deceptive.

Pilate has rejected Jesus, his otherworldly kingdom and the truth, so he is left responding to the demands of the pressures of this world. He does not like the alternatives offered him by either Jesus or the opponents, but he is being forced to decide. Here is a picture of John's dualism, indeed, the dualism found throughout the Scriptures. God and Satan are both putting pressure on. Both desire us, though for very different purposes. "There is no neutral ground in the universe: every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counterclaimed by Satan" (Lewis 1967:33). Each of us faces the same challenge Pilate here faces. Even though we are able to avoid the crunch for now, we will not be able to do so forever. The Mercy would not allow that.

Jesus Sentenced to be Crucified

1Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. 2The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe 3and went up to him again and again, saying, "Hail, king of the Jews!" And they struck him in the face.
4Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews, "Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him." 5When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, "Here is the man!"
6As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, "Crucify! Crucify!"
But Pilate answered, "You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him."
7The Jews insisted, "We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God."
8When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid,

John 19:1-8


The Soldiers Mistreat Jesus (19:1-3)

The theme of kingship continues as we now see the Roman soldiers dress Jesus up like a king, revere him and greet him as king of the Jews. They are doing so in cruel mockery, but they speak the truth. This may be another example of John's use of irony in having people speak truth that they themselves do not realize, providing "a sign that the Gentiles will ultimately confess the kingship of Jesus" (Brown 1970:889). This little section is at the center of a chiasm (see introduction to 18:28--19:16), which adds weight to this suggestion, since the center point of a chiasm is usually the main point.

Pilate turns Jesus over to the soldiers to be flogged (v. 1). In other Gospel accounts Jesus is flogged right before he is handed over for crucifixion (Mt 27:26 par. Mk 15:15), whereas here Pilate will make another effort to get Jesus released before he is eventually handed over (v. 16). Luke, like John, mentions several efforts made by Pilate to release Jesus (Lk 23:13-22), but Luke does not refer to the flogging itself, beyond Pilate's threat to punish Jesus (Lk 23:16, 22). Some think that Jesus was flogged once and that John has separated that event from the handing over (Sherwin-White 1965:104; Brown 1994:1:852-53), but more likely there were two floggings (Carson 1991:597). The Romans had several degrees of punishment (Brown 1994:1:851-52), with the lightest form being a beating that was both a pun-ishment and a warning (Sherwin-White 1963:27). The more severe forms were used in interrogations to extract information from people or in connection with other punishments (Sherwin-White 1963:27). Since the punishment at this point in John's account was neither of these severe forms, the reference would fit the lighter form better. Pilate, who considers Jesus innocent, may have wanted to satisfy Jesus' opponents with this relatively light punishment. The later flogging, referred to by Matthew and Mark in connection with the sentence of crucifixion, would have been the more severe form. This type of flogging employed a whip made of leather thongs with pieces of bone or lead attached, which chewed up the flesh. Such flogging could itself result in death. Jesus' own flogging, while brutal and inflicting great suffering, was not carried out to this extreme, since he did not die from it. Indeed, Pilate was surprised he died so quickly on the cross (Mk 15:44; cf. Blinzler 1959:226). Pilate, however, did not know the whole story, for he did not know of the spiritual wounds Jesus suffered as he took away the sin of the world (1:29), being "pierced for our transgressions" and "crushed for our iniquities" (Is 53:5).

In addition to beating Jesus, as ordered by Pilate, the soldiers mocked him. The crown of thorns (v. 2) was most likely made from the date palm (Hart 1952), the same plant that had supplied the fronds laid on Jesus' path as he entered Jerusalem a short time before (12:13). The spikes on this plant can reach twelve inches long and were notorious for inflicting pain (cf. Midrash Rabbah on Num 3:1). Such long spikes would give the effect of a starburst around Jesus' head, in imitation of the likeness of deified rulers on coins of the period and much earlier. (H. Hart's article includes photos of such coins and the spikes from a date palm.) The purple robe (v. 2) and the greeting "Hail, king of the Jews!" (v. 3)--an imitation of the greeting to Caesar, "Ave, Caesar"--furthered the sick entertainment. As they lined up and came forward to greet him (cf. Bruce 1983:358), instead of giving him the kiss of greeting, they struck him in the face (v. 3).

This scene presents a powerful picture of Christ's glory, since this caricature of Christian worship, as E. C. Hoskyns calls it 1940b:621), actually speaks of Jesus' true identity as King of the Jews and, indeed, Lord of all. But throughout the story we have seen the chief characteristic of the glory of God revealed in Jesus to be his love. Jesus really is a king beyond the wildest imaginings of these soldiers. When we realize the power Jesus had we understand more of his humility and see God's brilliant glory. "Thus the kingdom which was not of this world overcame that proud world, not by the ferocity of fighting, but by the humility of suffering" (Augustine In John 116.1).

Pilate Again Declares Jesus Innocent (19:4-8)

This second declaration of Jesus' innocence forms the fifth section of the chiasm (see introduction to 18:28--19:16), corresponding to the third section in which Pilate went out to the Jewish opponents and said he found no basis for a charge against Jesus (18:38b-40). This time he brings Jesus out with him--Jesus wearing the mocking signs of kingship and bearing the marks of the violence done against him. This very presentation of Jesus, with Pilate's dramatic words, Here is the man! (v. 5), could itself be a continuation of the mockery, as though Jesus is coming forth to be presented to his subjects as on some state occasion. But while Pilate is mocking Jesus and his fellow Jews he is also making the point that there is no basis for a charge against such a figure. Jesus may be dressed up as a king and a god (Hart 1952:75), but in Pilate's eyes he is only a man.

Once again we have an "unconscious prophet" (Westcott 1908:2:299), like Caiaphas (11:49-52) or the centurion in Mark's Gospel (Mk 15:39; cf. Bruce 1983:359). Several proposals have been made for the significance of Pilate's calling Jesus the man (cf. Barrett 1978:541; Brown 1994:1:827-28). One of the more likely proposals is Jesus' identity as the Son of Man, since Jesus had said, "When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I AM" (8:28). Another possibility is an emphasis on Jesus' humanity: Jesus is indeed man (anthropos), for the Word became flesh (1:14). Since the real reason his opponents are against him is his claim to deity (19:7), we would have in Pilate's phrase references to both the humanity and the deity of Jesus. John may also see here allusions to Jesus as the last Adam, to use Paul's language (1 Cor 15:45), in keeping with similar possible allusions through the motif of the Garden (see comment on 18:1). This association with Adam is true, but since John does not make an explicit reference to him, we can't be sure he had it in mind here.

Pilate's bid to release Jesus is once again soundly rejected (v. 6a). The heart of the opposition to Jesus comes from the chief priests and their officials, and John singles these folk out as the ones crying, Crucify! Crucify! They want Jesus not merely dead, but crucified. The reason, most likely, is that this form of death was associated with the curse in the law against "anyone who is hung on a tree" (Deut 21:23, see comment on 18:32).

Pilate's little plan failed, so in exasperation he tells the leaders to take Jesus and crucify him themselves, since, as he says for the third time, he finds no charge against Jesus (v. 6). Pilate is trusting in political games rather than standing in integrity for what he knows to be true. When such people cannot control a situation they get frustrated and angry. He is not really offering them a chance to crucify Jesus themselves, and they understand that, as their actions show.

Pilate and the Jewish leaders are very agitated, but the appeal they both make is to law. According to Roman law Jesus is innocent, as Pilate has now said three times. But the leaders now assert that according to Jewish law (v. 7), Jesus must die because he claimed to be the Son of God (v. 7). This was the charge that was brought against Jesus at the trial before Caiaphas, though not recorded by John (Mt 26:63-66 par. Mk 14:61-64 par. Lk 22:67-71). The law they seem to have in mind says "anyone who blasphemes the name of the LORD must be put to death" (Lev 24:16). Later in the Mishnah blasphemy refers to pronouncing the divine name (m. Sanhedrin 7:5), but the concept was broader in the first century (cf. Robinson 1985:263). The claim to be a "son of God" is not necessarily a blasphemous claim to deity since the phrase was used in the Old Testament to describe beings other than God, in particular heavenly beings (Gen 6:2; Ps 29:1, obscured in the NIV) and the king of Israel (2 Sam 7:14; Ps 2:7; 89:26-27; cf. Wülfing von Martitz et al. 1972:347-53). Since "son of God" was used of the king, the opponents are not now shifting away from the charge that Jesus claims to be king, as seen in their repetition of this charge later (v. 12). Rather, they are helping Pilate understand that there is a religious as well as a political dimension to the kingship of Jesus, and the religious aspect is the crucial one. Throughout the Gospel they have rejected Jesus' claims to a special relationship with God, and they have already threatened his life because of such claims (5:18; 8:58-59; 10:33, 36). It is his claim to be God's Son in a special sense that constitutes the blasphemy (10:36).

The opponents had not introduced this underlying problem to Pilate at first but rather couched it in its political form to get him to act. Even now their expression allows Pilate to read his own content into it. For they say Jesus claims to be "a son of God" (hyion theou). For a Roman, as for a Jew, this could be a political claim since the emperor could be referred to as "son of God" (theou hyios, divi filius). But Pilate does not treat it as such but rather, it seems, as a claim to be a "divine man" (theios aner, Dodd 1953:250-51). These "divine men" were Hellenistic religious philosophers who were "characterized by moral virtue, wisdom and/or miraculous power so that they were held to be divine" (Blackburn 1992:189). Pilate's response is fear (v. 8). Some think this fear is due to his realization that the situation is getting out of his control and that "he will not be able to escape making a judgment about truth" (Brown 1994:1:830; cf. Ridderbos 1997:602). But John says it was this saying (touton ton logon) about Jesus as Son of God that caused Pilate's fear (v. 8) and led him to ask Jesus where he is from (v. 9). So he is probably experiencing a fear of the divine, on top of all the other problems this situation entails for him. The discussion Pilate had just had with Jesus about his kingdom now begins to make more sense to Pilate. He must take Jesus back inside and explore this new dimension to his case.

9and he went back inside the palace. "Where do you come from?" he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10"Do you refuse to speak to me?" Pilate said. "Don't you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?"
11Jesus answered, "You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin."
12From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jews kept shouting, "If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar."
13When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge's seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha). 14It was the day of Preparation of Passover Week, about the sixth hour.
"Here is your king," Pilate said to the Jews.
15But they shouted, "Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!"
"Shall I crucify your king?" Pilate asked.
"We have no king but Caesar," the chief priests answered.
16Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.
John 19:9-16


Jesus Speaks of Power and Guilt (19:9-11)

In Pilate's earlier discussion with Jesus, which forms the corresponding section in the first part of the chiasm (see introduction to 18:28--19:16), Jesus had clearly said he was not from this world (18:36-37). This obviously raises the question of where he is from. Now that Pilate knows Jesus claims to be a son of God he investigates more closely, asking Jesus, Where do you come from? (v. 9). From the context this is clearly not an inquiry about what country he is from, "but it is as if he had said, `Are you an earth-born man or some god?'" (Calvin 1959:172). Pilate's question gets at the central issue regarding Jesus--that he is from the Father in heaven. Jesus' origin was a major topic during his ministry (7:27-29; 8:14; 9:29-33), and now it comes to the fore at the end.

Jesus does not speak about his origin to Pilate. According to the Synoptics, Jesus has been silent already during his Passion, both before Pilate, when the chief priests and elders were accusing him (Mt 27:12-14 par. Mk 15:3-5), and before Herod, with the same opponents accusing him (Lk 23:9-10). Now he is also silent before Pilate in private (Jn 19:9). His silence echoes the silence of the Suffering Servant of Isaiah (53:7; cf. Acts 8:32; 1 Pet 2:22-23). He is silent, it seems, because Pilate has already revealed that he is not a man of truth and thus would not benefit from an answer to his question (see comment on 12:34-36).

Pilate has been exasperated by the Jewish leaders, and now he finds Jesus exasperating also. No one is cooperating with him! He threatens Jesus by referring to his power, though his threat comes across as a little lame given his obvious lack of power over the Jewish leaders: Don't you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you? (v. 10). In Roman law it was said, "No one who has power to condemn is without power to acquit" (Justinian Digest of Roman Law 50.17.37; cf. Bruce 1983:361-62). Pilate had a clear understanding of his legal power, that is, his authority (exousia). But he is thinking only in terms of this world.

Often in this Gospel we see people who are mistaken about Jesus and his teaching because they are viewing reality solely in this-worldly categories, for example, the woman of Samaria (chap. 4). Jesus has used their misunderstandings to help these people come to a better view of reality, and that is what he now does with Pilate also: You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above (v. 11). Pilate well understands that his power is dependent on the one who is over him, the emperor. He could understand Jesus to be saying nothing more than this. But now that Pilate realizes Jesus is claiming to be a son of God he has a chance to interpret Jesus correctly, to understand that God is the source of this power. Indeed, Jesus' reference to from above gives Pilate a hint as to the answer to his question of where Jesus is from (cf. 3:31; 8:23). Thus this is a saying that tests Pilate's heart. Will he hear it correctly?

There are further hints as well about Jesus and his Father. The word for power (exousia) is in the feminine, whereas the verb it were . . . given (en dedomenon) is in the neuter and thus refers to more than just the power: "You would not have any power over me if something had not been given to you from above." In other words, this expression puts all the emphasis on the verbal idea of giving, a reference to the Father who is the source of all--the one who gives. Jesus' point is that Pilate, like all of us, is a recipient. So Jesus is saying, in part, that the power of government has been given by God (3:27; Rom 13:1-7). Jesus speaks for this God upon whom Pilate himself is dependent, thereby further hinting as to his identity and the character of his Father.

In addition to making this general point, Jesus also refers specifically to the power Pilate has over me. No one has power over Jesus except the Father. And, in particular, no one takes Jesus' life from him, but rather he lays it down of his own accord in obedience to his Father (10:17-18). Here is yet another hint for Pilate: he may have power over everyone else in Israel, but not over Jesus. If Pilate realized who was standing before him, he would have a chance of making sense out of this situation and much more.

And he needs to make sense out of Jesus and this trial and his own relation to the Father because he is sinning. He should get this message from the conclusion of Jesus' statement that therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin (v. 11). Pilate's fear is quite justified. He will be held accountable to God for how he exercises his authority. His sin may not be as great as someone else's, but he is in fact sinning. Furthermore, this indictment of Pilate implies something about Jesus' own identity and role, for he is claiming to know God and God's will. Indeed, Jesus himself is the point of reference for sin in that to reject him is sin (16:9) and to receive him is to obey God (6:29). When Jesus used a similar indirect exposure of the sin of the woman of Samaria she was able to perceive something of what Jesus was saying about himself and respond to him (4:16-19). Pilate, however, does not pursue the issue further. He feels the pressure Jesus has exerted and thus tries all the harder to release him (v. 12), but he does not turn toward the light. He is still trying to be neutral and stay in control.

If Pilate's sin is great, who is the one who has a greater sin? The reference would not be to Judas, since he did not hand Jesus over to Pilate. Rather, as Pilate said to Jesus earlier, it was "your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me" (18:35). Now Jesus uses the singular, the one who, collecting all his opponents into a unit, perhaps in the person of the high priest, Caiaphas. All has been given from above, therefore there are degrees of sin in keeping with the differences in what has been given. If Pilate sins by not administering justice to a man he knows is innocent, how much more sinful are the leaders of God's people who have received not merely laws of justice but the divine law that bears witness to the Father and the one whom he has sent. To whom much is given, much is required (Lk 12:48).

Thus, both Jew and Gentile share in the sin, and therefore the guilt, of Jesus' death. Indeed, "each of us is as guilty of putting Jesus on the cross as Caiaphas" (Carson 1991:575) or Pilate, for that matter. But John clearly says the Jews' sin is greater, not because John is anti-Jewish, but precisely because of the greater gifts of God within Judaism. The problem is not Judaism as such but the rejection of their own Messiah by these particular leaders and their followers, despite what was available within Judaism. Thus, these members of the people of God are of this world, not of God (8:23).

Unfortunately, this Gospel has been read in anti-Jewish ways and thus has contributed to hatred of Jews and violence committed against them--all completely contrary to the teachings of Jesus. Although this Gospel reflects the conflict between the church and the synagogue late in the first century, it should not be seen as anti-Jewish (see comment on 8:44; cf. Brown 1994:1:383-97; Beasley-Murray 1987:308-10; Robinson 1985:271-75). It is, instead, anti-world. The Jews had a greater witness to the Light, so they should have embraced the Light more readily when he came. Accordingly their sin was greater than that of the Gentile Pilate. But from this perspective there is now a group whose sin is much greater yet. For from all appearances a great many Christians throughout the ages--and not least in our day--have been of the world as much as these Jewish opponents were, despite having not only the Old Testament but the Holy Spirit, the New Testament and the witness of the saints throughout the ages. Indeed, violence done against the Jews has itself been evidence of being of the world. Anyone, whether Jew or Gentile, who is of the world is allied with the evil one over against the Son of God (cf. 8:44). This spiritual contest is the real significance of what is taking place in the Passion (cf. 12:31; 14:30; 16:11).

Pilate and the Jewish Opponents Reject Jesus as King (19:12-16)

This final section of the chiastic account of the trial before Pilate (see introduction to 18:28--19:16) corresponds with the first section (18:29-32), in which Pilate was also outside the praetorium and the opponents called for Jesus' death. Jesus has just borne witness to the truth about himself, his Father, Pilate and the opponents. He has made Pilate even more uncomfortable, so Pilate begins to make further efforts to release him (v. 12; ezetei, NIV tried, is in the imperfect tense, here signifying repeated action). The Jewish leaders counter these efforts with a decisive move--they bring in the issue of Pilate's loyalty to Caesar (v. 12). A later emperor, Vespasian (A.D. 69-79), had a specific group of people whose loyalty and importance were recognized by the title friend of Caesar. It is possible that Tiberius also had such a group and Pilate was a member (Bammel 1952), though this is uncertain. In either case, the threat is to Pilate's position, and this settles the issue. Pilate has already revealed that he is a man of this world, insensitive to the truth of God. A threat to his political position is an attack upon the heart of what he knows and cares about. Such a choice between Jesus and other ultimate concerns in our lives faces each of us, for Jesus really is King and insists on complete loyalty as strongly as Tiberius. Pilate is faced with a choice of kings, and he does not choose wisely.

It is, of course, highly ironic that Pilate's loyalty to Caesar should be threatened by Jews, members of the most disloyal and unruly section of the empire. Pilate is being humiliated by them. He knows he must give in to their wishes, but he is wily enough to humiliate them also in the process. Upon hearing their threat, he brings Jesus out and sits on the judge's seat (bema) to pass judgment. This is the climax of the trial and, indeed, of the ministry of Jesus.

John underscores the importance of this moment by specifying the place and time, though, unfortunately, the precise meaning of both is uncertain today. The place where the trial before Pilate occurred is uncertain (see comment on 18:28), and the addition of the term Gabbatha does not help. This Aramaic word does not mean Stone Pavement but is a different word for the same place, probably meaning something like "elevated" (McRay 1992). The location would have been well known in the first century because it was the place of judgment.

The reference to the day of Preparation of Passover Week, about the sixth hour (v. 14) is problematic when compared to the Synoptics. If Passover (pascha) refers to the Passover meal itself, then John has the trial and the crucifixion happening a day earlier than the Synoptics do (see comment on 18:28). This would mean that this dramatic point before Pilate's bema occurs just as the lambs are beginning to be slaughtered in the temple. Jesus' death then took place while they were continuing to be killed. This setting would tie in with Jesus' identity as the Lamb of God (1:29) and the several allusions to the pascal lamb in the Passion narrative (see comments on 19:19, 33-34, 36). On the other hand, if pascha refers to Passover Week, as in the NIV (cf. Torrey 1931; Carson 1991:603-4), then John's account is not in conflict with the Synoptics. If the word preparation (paraskeue) regularly referred to the day before the sabbath, that is, Friday, this would lend support to the latter interpretation (Ridderbos 1997:456). For then both John and the Synoptics would present Jesus as eating Passover on Thursday evening, the beginning of Friday according to Jewish reckoning in which days begin at sundown. This usage, however, is contested (cf. Zeitlin 1932; Brown 1994:1:846). Alternatively, the suggestion that two different calendars were used (see comment on 18:28) would also account for the differences, since for some it would still be the period of preparation for the Passover meal. In this way Jesus ate the Passover and also died while the Passover lambs continued to be killed. There is no clear solution to this quesstion.

The sixth hour would be noon, which seems to conflict with Mark's statement that Jesus was crucified at the third hour, that is, 9 a.m. (Mk 15:25). Again there is a division of opinion, with some assuming the two accounts simply contradict one another (Robinson 1985:268), perhaps due to a corruption in the text (Alford 1980:897-98; Barrett 1978:545) or because both John and Mark cite an hour that has symbolic significance for them (Barrett 1978:545; Brown 1994:1:847). Others think the imprecision of telling time in the ancient world accounts for the discrepancy (Augustine In John 117.1; Morris 1971:800-801).

Whatever the solution to these puzzles, John emphasizes this particular moment because Jesus is now presented to his people as king: Here is your king (v. 14). Pilate may be making one last bid to get them to change their minds, but given their threat to him regarding his loyalty to Caesar this is unlikely. Rather, Pilate mocks the Jews by saying this battered, weak man dressed in sham regal trappings is their king. Pilate is perhaps imitating a ceremony formally recognizing a ruler, somewhat similar to what takes place today at the coronation of a British monarch (cf. Bruce 1983:365). Jesus is indeed their king, and here is their one last chance to receive him as such, but they will have nothing of it. Pilate thereby "makes the moment of his decision the moment of decision for the Jews" (Beasley-Murray 1987:342).

The Jewish opponents have trapped Pilate, and now he springs on them a trap of his own. When they once more reject Jesus as their king and call for his crucifixion, Pilate replies, Shall I crucify your king? (v. 15). What they should have said in return was, "We have no king but God," but in order to force Pilate's hand with their threat regarding his loyalty to Caesar the chief priests instead say, We have no king but Caesar (v. 15). Like Pilate, they are forced to choose which king they will serve, and they also fail to choose wisely. Here are the spiritual leaders of Israel denying the very faith they are claiming to uphold in their rejection of Jesus. God alone was Israel's king (Judg 8:23; 1 Sam 8:4-20). The human king was to be in submission to God as a son is to his father (2 Sam 7:11-16; Ps 2:7). These ancient attitudes found expression in one of the prayers these chief priests prayed every day: "May you be our King, you alone." Every year at this very feast of Passover they sang, "From everlasting to everlasting you are God; beside you we have no king, redeemer, or savior, no liberator, deliverer, provider, none who takes pity in every time of distress and trouble; we have no king but you" (Talbert 1992:241). The hope was for a redeemer to come, the Messiah, who would be a king like David. "But now hundreds of years of waiting had been cast aside: `the Jews' had proclaimed the half-mad exile of Capri to be their king" (Brown 1970:895; cf. Westcott 1908:2:306). These opponents stand self-condemned.

Jesus is indeed the King of Israel, and that means true Israel is found among those who owe allegiance to him. Jesus had already withdrawn from the temple (8:59) and formed the nucleus of the renewed people. Now the leadership of the nation completes this judgment, for "in the breaking of the covenant whereby God or his Messiah was Israel's king, the movement of replacement comes to a climax, for `the Jews' have renounced their status as God's people" (Brown 1970:895). The light is shining brightly at this point, and the darkness's rejection of the light is equally strong (cf. 3:20).

Pilate then hands Jesus over to them to crucify (v. 16). They themselves did not carry out the crucifixion, but this way of putting it completes the cycle of guilt. They had handed Jesus over to Pilate, and now he hands Jesus over to them. Both Jew and Gentile have rejected Jesus, and the way is now prepared for the ultimate revelation of the glory of God. This rejection of the Son of God is the essence of sin, and Jesus will now die to take away the sin of the world.

16Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.

The Crucifixion

17So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). 18Here they crucified him, and with him two others--one on each side and Jesus in the middle.
19Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read:|sc JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. 20Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. 21The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, "Do not write 'The King of the Jews,' but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews."
22Pilate answered, "What I have written, I have written."
23When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom.
24"Let's not tear it," they said to one another. "Let's decide by lot who will get it."
This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled which said,
   "They divided my garments among them
       and cast lots for my clothing."[1] So this is what the soldiers did.
25Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son," 27and to the disciple, "Here is your mother." From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

The Death of Jesus

28Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, "I am thirsty." 29A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus' lips. 30When he had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

John 19:16-30


Jesus Is Crucified (19:16-30)

Jesus is led to the place of crucifixion and nailed to the cross (vv. 16-18). While his enemies continue to squabble with one another (vv. 19-22) and divide his clothes (vv. 23-24), Jesus himself continues to love his followers and direct their own sharing in his love (vv. 25-27). Then he dies (vv. 28-30).

Jesus Is Hung on the Cross (19:16-18)

John's description of the actual crucifixion is amazingly brief. People in the ancient world would not need a description, since such executions were not rare (Hengel 1977:38). Although crucifixion could take a variety of forms (cf. Hengel 1977:25-32; Brown 1994:2:945-52), it was common to have the victim carry the crossbeam to the place of crucifixion where the upright was already in place. Occasionally the victim was tied to the crossbeam with leather thongs, but most often nails were used, as in the case of Jesus. The nails were five to seven inches long and were driven through the feet and wrists, not the hands (Edwards, Gabel and Hosmer 1986:1459). Crosses in the shape of an X or a T were used, but since the title was attached over Jesus' head (Mt 27:37) we know the style used for Jesus' cross was the shape we usually imagine, a t, which was also a common form. The person was laid on the ground and nailed to the crosspiece, which was then hoisted into place. Often the person was only a short distance off the ground, though the fact that a stick was needed in order to offer Jesus a drink (v. 29) suggests his head was higher than arm's length above the people on the ground. The nail wounds would cause a great deal of bleeding, but death often took place through suffocation. A little seat rest was attached to allow the person to maintain a position in which it was possible to breathe, thus prolonging the agony.

It is not known why the place was called Skull (v. 17; calvaria in Latin, hence the name Calvary), but the fact that Joseph had a tomb close by suggests this was not a place of public execution (Brown 1970:900). The notion that the landscape had the appearance of a skull is possible, as evidenced by the hill near Gordon's Calvary today, though the shape of this particular hill is more recent than the first century. The traditional site at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, not the Garden Tomb at Gordon's Calvary, is most likely authentic (R. H. Smith 1976; Brown 1994:2:937-40, 1279-83).

John mentions the other two victims crucified with Jesus (v. 18), but he does not describe them as fully as the Synoptic writers do. John also leaves out mention of Simon of Cyrene helping carry Jesus' cross. This comparison with the other Gospels helps us appreciate how John's account is very focused, very spare. In what follows he will not dwell on Jesus' own agony, except for his thirst just before his death (v. 28). Instead, John describes the activity swirling around Jesus, showing how it all relates to the glory. While John directs our attention to various people around the cross, we must not lose sight of the one on the cross. That which is not described is actually what dominates the scene.

Pilate and the Jewish Leaders Fight over the Title (19:19-22)

It was common practice to have those sentenced to crucifixion carry signs indicating the cause of their punishment or to have others carry the signs for the accused (Brown 1994:2:963). The title Pilate has written, JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS (v. 19), continues to goad the Jewish leaders, as their reaction demonstrates (v. 21). They insist that he change it, but for the first time he stands firm against them. Now that their threat against him has passed he can afford to be strong (cf. Westcott 1908:2:310), which only serves to portray his pathetic weakness all the more clearly. His famous line--What I have written, I have written (v. 22)--sounds, in the context, merely petulant and childish.

Pilate earlier announced Jesus as "the man" (v. 5) and as "your king" (v. 14), and now he combines these themes in the title for Jesus' cross. Designating Jesus as being from Nazareth focuses on his humble humanity, while giving him the title of king speaks of his grandeur (see comment on 18:5-6). It was written in the three major languages of the region and read by many of the Jews since it was near the city (v. 20). The Romans did what they could to make crucifixions gruesome and public for the purpose of deterrence. But John seems to suggest this title over the cross was itself a form of witness to Israel and the world. Pilate unwittingly made such a proclamation, of course, as was the case with his having chosen the title itself. Such features fit with John's theme that all is working out according to God's will, even despite some of the participants. Indeed, "the two men who were most responsible for the death of Jesus became the unwitting prophets of the death of Jesus: the one declaring it as the means of redemption for Israel and the nations (11:49-50) the other proclaiming it the occasion of his exaltation to be King of Israel and Lord of all" (Beasley-Murray 1987:346).

So here we have another irony: the man who does not have a clue about the truth (18:38) proclaims, unwittingly, the truth about Jesus. And we have the tragedy of the representatives of the one true God, who should have recognized the truth, continuing to reject it.

The Soldiers Divide Jesus' Clothes (19:23-24)

Normally the victim would be led naked to the place of crucifixion. The fact that Jesus' clothes were not taken from him until the point of crucifixion may suggest that he was allowed to retain some form of covering while on the cross itself (Brown 1994:2:953), perhaps out of deference to Jewish objections to nudity. Since, however, the normal undergarment was either a tunic or a loincloth, and Jesus' tunic was taken from him (v. 23; Brown 1970:902), it is perhaps more likely he was naked. Early Christian tradition is divided on the subject (cf. Brown 1994:2:953).

It is this undergarment (chiton, the garment worn next to the skin) that is of most interest to John. It is seamless, and therefore to prevent its being torn the soldiers decide to draw lots for it (v. 24). The fact that it is seamless probably does not indicate that it was unusual or an item of luxury (Brown 1970:903). John's focus on this feature has led many to find symbolism in this garment (cf. Brown 1994:2:955-58). The two main proposals for John's detail have been that it is a symbol either of Jesus as high priest, since the high priest's chiton was seamless, according to Josephus (Antiquities of the Jews 3.161), or of the unity of the church (for example, Cyprian On the Unity of the Church 7), that is, the community as brought together by the death of Christ (Barrett 1978:550, 552).

Such thoughts are true and edifying, but they are not John's primary focus. The significance of the garment's being seamless is that the soldiers are led to draw of lots for it, which in turn echoes Psalm 22:18 (v. 24). This is the first of four Old Testament passages cited as being fulfilled in Jesus' Passion, all of which refer to particular details of what takes place (vv. 28, 36-37). John marshals these texts around this most central, and most scandalous, event in order to show that the death of God's Son was in fact the will of God the Father. Behind the idea of fulfillment is the notion of God's sovereign control, which weaves repeating patterns: Scripture expresses God's will, and Jesus is submissive to God's will, so his activity fulfills the Scripture because it flows from the same source and is controlled by the same Father.

Psalm 22 is a psalm of King David in his role as a righteous sufferer. The title above Jesus' head is proclaiming him to be king of the Jews, and John sees Jesus as replicating a pattern of the greatest king in Israel's past. Thus, this reference is not a gratuitous proof text, but a link with a type. Fulfillment of Scripture, in this sense, is the replication of a pattern, and Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment, the center of all the patterns. The Synoptics also allude to this connection regarding the garments (Mt 27:35 par. Mk 15:24 par. Lk 23:34) as well as the connection through Jesus' cry from the cross, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me" (Mt 27:46 par. Mk 15:34), which is Psalm 22:1. The figure of the righteous king who suffers is embodied in Jesus par excellence. If the opponents understood King David better they might have recognized King Jesus.

Jesus Cares for His Mother and the Beloved Disciple (19:25-27)

John now turns to another distinct group at the cross (men . . . de, vv. 24-25), namely those who are there out of love for Jesus. It was not unheard of for friends and relatives to be near the one crucified or for enemies to come to jeer (cf. t. Gittin 7:1, 330; y. Gittin 7; 48c; 39; b. Baba Metzia 83b; Stauffer 1960:136, 229). Mark tells us there was quite a crowd of women present (15:41), but John focuses on a handful near the cross. The list of women most likely refers to four individuals (Brown 1994:2:1014-15). Mark, in his Gospel, lists three women in particular who were present, "Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome" (15:40). It has been assumed from early times that the mother of James and Joses is the one referred to in John as Mary the wife of Clopas and that Salome is the one John calls his mother's sister. Salome, in turn, is further identified with the mother of the sons of Zebedee, as mentioned in Matthew's account (27:56). Accordingly, the sons of Zebedee were Jesus' cousins. Raymond Brown considers this identification "dubious" (1994:2:1017), and the texts admittedly do not allow certainty, since, as Mark says, there were a number of women present. However, if the Beloved Disciple, whom I take to be John, the son of Zebedee, is Jesus' cousin, then Jesus' commending his mother to his care corresponds a little more with normal family patterns, though much more is involved as we will soon see. Furthermore, it is striking that neither Jesus' mother nor his aunt are named, a trait they share with the Beloved Disciple (cf. Carson 1991:616).

With these supporters standing near him, Jesus focuses on his mother and the Beloved Disciple (vv. 26-27). Jesus says to his mother, "Woman, behold your son," and to the Beloved Disciple, "Behold your mother." Similar language was used in connection with betrothal (Tobit 7:12) and thus seems to signal some change of relationship. Jesus' mother is now brought under the care of the Beloved Disciple (v. 27). In this Gospel there is a symbolic role for both the mother of Jesus and the Beloved Disciple, for they are both examples of true discipleship (see comments on 2:1-11 and 13:23). So in changing the relationship they have to one another, Jesus is completing the formation of the community gathered around him--gathered around him precisely as he is on the cross (C. Koester 1995:214-19). The new community is now seen to be a new family (cf. 20:17; Newbigin 1982:255).

A great deal has been made of this text. Many have understood Jesus' mother to be a symbol of Eve, the mother of the living, or a symbol of the church (cf. Brown 1970:923-27). Quite often it has been assumed that the disciple is given into the care of the mother, which has contributed to the development of views regarding Mary's role in the lives of Christians, who are symbolized by the Beloved Disciple. Such symbolism is a further development of John's own focus, which is on the new family formed among the disciples of Jesus, with the Beloved Disciple, who is the witness to Jesus par excellence, as the one exercising care (cf. Ridderbos 1997:611-15). The mother and the Beloved Disciple together symbolize the new community.

Here at the very end we see Jesus still exercising love and care (cf. 13:1). This loving concern is the glory that his death itself reveals most powerfully, since love is the laying down of one's life (cf. 1 Jn 3:16). In the course of his ministry Jesus was forming a new community around himself, and in the farewell discourse (13:31--17:26) he described how that community is to share in his own relation with the Father and to participate in the divine life, which is characterized by love. Now he has completed the formation of this community, at least for the stage prior to the sending of the Spirit and his own dwelling with them in a new way. This community is the fruit of his death, for it will be the locus of the divine life on earth. The divine life is characterized by love and therefore requires a community to express itself. The life of the community derives from Jesus' own giving of himself, and in turn such self-giving is to typify the community itself. Jesus' death is both a revelation of the love of God and an example of such self-giving love. Such love is only really possible when sin has been taken away, since the essence of sin is a false self-love that prevents one from sharing in the life of God, which is love.

Jesus Dies (19:28-30)

The significance of the formation of the community that has just taken place is further underscored when John says Jesus knows that all was now completed (v. 28). This is what he came to do--to form a community that can share in his own relation with the Father. With the work completed he can now finalize the completion through his death, so he says, I am thirsty (v. 28). John notes he said this in order to fulfill the Scripture--not that he was consciously thinking of texts and doing things to echo them, but rather that Scripture reveals God's will and Jesus perfectly accomplishes God's will (see comment on v. 24). The text he echoes (Ps 69:21) is another passage featuring King David as the righteous sufferer, and thus bears witness to Jesus' identity.

John shifts from pleroo, the word usually used to speak of the fulfillment of Scripture, to teleioo, the same word in the first part of the verse, there translated completed, and in Jesus' final cry, It is finished (v. 30). Jesus' own life, including his death and resurrection, is the primal pattern that Scripture itself replicates. He is the sun whose rays create shadows both backward and forward in time. Accordingly, he not only fulfills Scripture in the sense of replicating its patterns, he brings Scripture itself to completion by being its central referent.

John does not say who soaked a sponge in some cheap wine and lifted it to Jesus' lips with a stalk of hyssop (v. 29). The Synoptics also leave this indefinite, but they say a kalamos was used (Mt 27:48 par. Mk 15:36), that is, a reed, a staff or a stalk. Perhaps John has referred specifically to a hyssop stalk to interpret what is taking place, since hyssop was used to sprinkle the blood of the lamb on the doorposts just before the Exodus (Ex 12:22) and later was used for other purifying rites (Lev 14:4, 6; Num 19:18; Ps 51:7). John would be drawing out the juxtaposition of Jesus as king and Jesus as lamb, similar to the description in heaven of the Lion of the tribe of Judah who turns out to be "a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain" (Rev 5:5-6).

There seems to be something particularly significant about Jesus' thirst, since once Jesus receives the wine he says, It is finished, and dies (v. 30). On one level this thirst is the only reference in this Gospel to Jesus' actual physical suffering on the cross. But the idea of thirst may also have spiritual significance. Earlier Jesus had said, "My food . . . is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish (teleioo) his work" (4:34). And when he was arrested he told Peter to put his sword away, saying, "Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?" (18:11). "Hunger and thirst become images for Jesus' desire to fulfill the Father's will to the end" (Schnackenburg 1982:283). Since the cup represents wrath and suffering (see comment on 18:11), Jesus' taking of this drink may suggest the completion of that experience, as the Lamb of God now takes away the sin of the world. The work he has come to do is now complete. The great significance John attaches to the saying I am thirsty would then make sense because it would symbolize both Jesus' commitment to obey God's will and the fulfillment of the suffering of the one who is the righteous sufferer par excellence.

Jesus had said that no one takes his life from him but that he lays it down of his own accord (10:18), and his death is indeed described as a voluntary act: he bowed his head and gave up his spirit (v. 30). The order of Jesus' actions is important (Chrysostom In John 85.3). John does not say that Jesus died and then his head slumped over, but rather that he bowed his head, an attitude of submission, and then gave over (paredoken) his spirit. "At his own free will, he with a word dismissed from him his spirit, anticipating the executioner's work" (Tertullian Apology 21). The very form of his death continues to reveal him as the obedient Son, the key theme regarding his identity throughout his ministry. As the obedient Son, submissive to the Father, he fulfills the type of the true King, confirming the message of the sign over his head.

31Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jews did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. 32The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. 33But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus' side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. 35The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. 36These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: "Not one of his bones will be broken,"[2] 37and, as another scripture says, "They will look on the one they have pierced."[3]

The Burial of Jesus

38Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews. With Pilate's permission, he came and took the body away. 39He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds.[4] 40Taking Jesus' body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. 41At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. 42Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

John 19:31-42


The Jewish Leaders Ask Pilate to Mutilate Jesus' Body (19:31)

Death by crucifixion could take a very long time, but the Romans did not mind this because it added to the deterrent value. But sometimes the Romans would smash the victim's legs with a heavy hammer, which prevented the person from pushing up in order to breathe and thereby caused death from suffocation within minutes (Edwards, Gabel and Hosmer 1986:1461). The Jewish opponents ask Pilate to have the soldiers speed up the dying process in this way in order to get the bodies disposed of before the next day, which was a special Sabbath. In the law it says the body of a person put to death and hung on a tree must not be left on the tree overnight. "Be sure to bury him that same day, because anyone who is hung on a tree is under God's curse. You must not desecrate the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance" (Deut 21:23). This law applies to any day of the year, so how much more to a special feast day. These Jewish leaders continue to be greatly concerned with ritual purity (cf. 18:28), but more may be involved as well. They might intend that such mutilation would emphasize the point already made clear by the crucifixion itself--that Jesus was accursed (Beasley-Murray 1987:354).

The Soldiers' Actions Provide Further Witness to Jesus (19:32-37)

The soldiers break the legs of the other two men being crucified, perhaps working in toward Jesus from the two sides (v. 32; Bruce 1983:375). When they come to Jesus they find him already dead and therefore do not break his legs (v. 33). In this way, although the opponents attempted to further discredit Jesus, they unwittingly bear witness to what he has accomplished. Jesus has drunk the cup of God's wrath and indeed has become accursed (cf. vv. 28-29; Gal 3:13). But as the Lamb of God, Jesus has taken away the sin of the world. The opponents' attempt to have Jesus' legs broken ends up drawing attention to the fact that they were not broken. Thus, another pattern of Scripture is echoed: Not one of his bones will be broken (v. 36). The allusion is to the Passover lamb (Ex 12:46; Num 9:12) and to King David as the righteous sufferer (Ps 34:20), thereby continuing the juxtaposition of themes that John has emphasized in his account of the Passion. In this way, the body of Jesus continues to bear witness to his identity and his accomplishment even after he has died.

His body also bears witness in another way, which is emphasized by John. For when the soldiers find Jesus dead one of them stabs him to be sure he is dead, and out comes a sudden flow of blood and water (v. 34). The word pierce (nysso) can be used of either a jab or a deep stab. Medical explanations of this flow of blood and water differ according to the depth of the wound. One theory is that the scourging produced "a bloody accumulation" in the chest, which separated into layers as he hung on the cross, with the heavier blood on the bottom. The wound from the spear entered below the level of separation, so the liquid came out first red and then more clear (Sava 1960). The other main theory is that Jesus was stabbed in the heart, so the blood came from the heart while the water came from the pericardial sac around the heart (Edwards, Gabel and Hosmer 1986:1463).

There have been many suggestions over the centuries for the significance of this flow (cf. Westcott 1908:2:328-33), and John may see a very complex web of associations. It is possible, in the light of later rabbinic thought, that the flow of blood and water mingled together is yet another allusion to Jesus as a Passover sacrifice. The blood of a sacrifice had to flow at the moment of death so it could be sprinkled (m. Pesahim 5:5, 8). Thus, this description may suggest that Jesus was a valid sacrifice (cf. Ford 1969; Brown 1970:951).

Jesus used both blood and water as important symbols in his teaching, and this gives us guidance for their import here. Water has been associated with cleansing (1:26, 31, 33; 2:6; 13:5), the new birth (3:5) and the Spirit (7:38-39). The reference to living water in chapter 4 is probably a comprehensive image for the Spirit, revelation and salvation (see comment on 4:10). Blood has referred to Jesus' sacrificial death, which brings life to the world (6:53-56). From these associations it would seem that in this flow of blood and water "John saw a symbol of the fact that from the Crucified there proceed those living streams by which men are quickened and the church lives" (Barrett 1978:557; cf. Dodd 1953:428; Schnackenburg 1982:294).

The fact that water symbolizes purification, the Spirit and the new birth provides a connection with baptism. The fact that blood symbolizes the sacrificial death of Christ, which gives life to the world, provides a connection with the Eucharist. These are "the ideas which underlie the two Sacraments" (Westcott 1908:2:320) and thus support the allusion to the sacraments that Christians have found here throughout the centuries (cf. Hoskyns 1940b:635-38).

As with the unbroken bones, so with the piercing: it is not only rich in symbolism but also a fulfillment of Scripture (v. 37). The passage cited is Zechariah 12:10, in which God says, "They will look on me, the one they have pierced." Here God seems to be identified with the leader of his people, a shepherd who is raised up by God (11:16) and yet will be struck by the sword (13:7). This passage, therefore, picks up the theme of the Good Shepherd who is one with God, laying down his life. Again, Jesus' identity and his fulfillment of God's will is conveyed through the replication of a Scriptural pattern.

The piercing is the point of interest for John (Barrett 1978:557), but perhaps there is also significance in those who look upon the pierced one. In Zechariah, the ones who look at him are "the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem" upon whom God has poured out "a spirit of grace and supplication" (Zech 12:10). Accordingly, they do not look upon him in fear, but rather "they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son" (Zech 12:10). Given the focus in the Passion account on the salvation Jesus has accomplished, perhaps "the salvation aspect is to the fore here also. Naturally the obverse of judgment for those who persist in looking on the Redeemer in unbelief is not excluded" (Beasley-Murray 1987:355; cf. Schnackenburg 1982:292-94). If this is the case, then this echo of Scripture speaks not only of Jesus' identity and work, but also of the fruit of that work as he is lifted up and draws all to himself (Jn 12:32). Indeed, the next scene shows us the first two examples of this fruit.

Between John's description of these events and their fulfillment in Scripture, there is a parenthetical comment on the truthfulness of his witness to the flow of blood and water: The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe (v. 35). This could be John's own statement of the trustworthiness of his testimony, but it is not like the other comments he has added to his account (for example, 2:22; 6:64, 71; 12:6, 16, 33; 18:9, 32; cf. Schnackenburg 1982:291). Instead, it reads very much like the testimony of the later disciples at the end of the Gospel: "This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true" (21:24). Possibly, then, verse 35 was added by John's disciples to underscore his witness to the death of Jesus. They might have added this because there were members of the community at a later stage, as reflected in the letters, moving in a Gnostic, or proto-Gnostic direction. Much of the argument against these views centered on the nature and significance of Jesus' death (cf. Whitacre 1982:121-51). Since these false teachers claimed to be true to the Johannine tradition, this note could have been added, perhaps originally only in the margin, "underlining the key text of the Gospel that belies this claim by the later opponents" (Whitacre 1982:213 n. 217).

Joseph and Nicodemus Bury Jesus' Body (19:38-42)

John's account of the burial may continue to develop the theme of Jesus' royal identity. The large amount of spice used (v. 39) obviously expresses their love for Jesus, as had the extravagance of Mary's gesture earlier (12:3). Such excessive amounts of spice were a feature of at least some royal funerals (2 Chron 16:14; Josephus Antiquities of the Jews 17.199). Further associations with royalty may be implied from the fact that Joseph's tomb is a garden tomb (v. 41), since the kings of Judah were buried in garden tombs (2 Kings 21:18, 26), including King David (Neh 3:16 LXX; cf. Brown 1994:2:1270). Plenty of people besides kings had extravagant funerals and were buried in garden tombs, but given all the emphasis in the Passion account on Jesus as king, such details may continue the theme here at the burial.

The fact that it is a new tomb is emphasized by John (v. 41). Some think John's point is that Jesus would not be brought into contact with corruption (Westcott 1908:2:324), or that there would be no question of mistaken identity when the tomb was empty (Chrysostom In John 85.4; Brown 1970:959). John may have been conscious of these notions, but it would seem the main point is simply that a new tomb is a token of appropriate honor given to a king. It may also tie in with the theme of the creation of the new community: Jesus has reordered the lives of his mother and the Beloved Disciple (vv. 26-27), in keeping with the new order of relationships of those who are united to him (cf. Mt 12:46-50 par. Mk 3:31-35 par. Lk 8:19-21). Jesus has no ancestral tomb but rather has begun a new family of those born from above who will never die (11:26).

Indeed, in this story we see this family gaining two new members. For the two men who bury Jesus had not publicly associated with him before. Joseph of Arimathea was indeed a disciple, but he was so secretly because he feared the Jews (v. 38). And Nicodemus, though not actually called a "disciple," nevertheless had visited Jesus at night (v. 39) and had affirmed at that time that Jesus was a teacher come from God (3:2). Thus, these are two of the people referred to earlier, who were secret believers, "for they loved praise from men more than praise from God" (12:42-43). Now, at Jesus' death, they are no longer under this condemnation; they have passed from hiding in the darkness to coming into the light.

From the Synoptics we learn that Joseph was a wealthy member of the Sanhedrin who was looking for the coming of the kingdom and who had not consented to the Sanhedrin's condemnation of Jesus (Mt 27:57; Mk 15:43; Lk 23:50-51). Nicodemus, who is not mentioned in the Synoptics, was also a member of the Sanhedrin (Jn 3:1) and, presumably, was wealthy, given the amount of spice he provides for Jesus' burial (v. 39). John A. T. Robinson considers Nicodemus to be from a well-established family of Jerusalem, while Joseph is "the nouveau riche country cousin with his brand-new tomb [cf. v. 41; Mt 27:60], which may suggest the lack of an established family mausoleum in the city" (1985:287). In any case, these are both men of power, privilege and wealth. Although Joseph, and presumably Nicodemus, had dissented from the vote, as members of the Sanhedrin they were indeed those who pierced Jesus and now they are looking upon him and mourning (see comment on v. 37). Jesus has been lifted up and is now beginning to draw all people to himself (12:32), beginning with these hidden disciples, who were members of the very group that insisted on Jesus' death.

It is ironic that these two men come out of hiding and clearly associate themselves with Jesus at his death, since they would have thought his movement had come to an end. They had nothing to gain and everything to lose. This action makes the extent of their dissent evident to their fellow Jewish leaders. Their request for the body was also a very courageous act. The Romans would often leave the body on the cross for days, though they might allow the family to take down the body for burial. They would not do this, however, in the case of treason (Beasley-Murray 1987:358). Thus, Joseph had no claims on the body and, depending on how Pilate viewed the case, would have been putting himself in considerable danger. But Pilate had clearly said three times that Jesus was innocent, which may account for his allowing Joseph to take the body. In addition, by allowing Jesus to have a decent burial Pilate would be able to further annoy the Jewish leadership.

The men did not have time to give Jesus a proper burial, which would include washing the body, anointing it with oil and then clothing and wrapping it (Brown 1994:2:1261). Instead, the seventy-five pounds of spices, which were probably in granular or powder form, could be packed under and around the body and in the strips of linen with which they wrapped the body. This would offset the smell of decay and help preserve the body until it could be properly attended to after the sabbath (v. 42; Robinson 1985:282-83). The meaning of the word for strips of linen (othoniois) is unclear. There does not seem to be evidence that Jews wrapped corpses in strips, as Egyptian mummies were wrapped (Brown 1994:2:1265), and the Synoptics say a single sheet was the main covering (Mt 27:59 par. Mk 15:46 par. Lk 23:53). Upon his being raised from the dead, Lazarus came out with "his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face" (11:44), but the word for "strips of linen" (keiria) in that verse is not the same word used here (othonion). Though the plural is used here, it may refer to a single sheet (cf. Brown 1994:2:1265) or be used generically for "grave clothes" (Robinson 1985:291). Thus, it is not clear how exactly they wrapped the body.The action taken by Joseph and Nicodemus signals a change in their own discipleship as they clearly break with the rest of the Jewish leadership. By handling the body they have made themselves ritually unclean and are thus disqualified from participating in the feast. According to some accounts of the dating (see comment on 18:28; 19:14), this means they would miss the Passover itself, in which case Christ has replaced the Passover for them in keeping with John's focus on Jesus as the Lamb of God and the fulfillment of the Jewish feasts in general.

John 20

The Empty Tomb

1Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don't know where they have put him!"
3So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus' head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. 8Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9(They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)
10Then the disciples went back to their homes,

John 20:1-10


Mary Magdalene and Two Disciples Visit the Tomb (20:1-10)

All of the Gospels agree that Mary of Magdala was the first of the disciples to go to the tomb. The Synoptics mention she was accompanied by other women (Mt 28:1; Mk 16:1; Lk 24:1, 10), and her use of the pronoun we in verse 2 could imply the same. All accounts mention that she went when it was very early in the morning, though John goes further and states that it was still dark (v. 1). Earlier the image of darkness symbolized the period of deadly conflict with the prince of this world (cf. 13:30), but now Jesus has been victorious. So if this darkness at the tomb is symbolic, it would reflect Mary's condition and that of the other disciples rather than the period of salvation history. This chapter shows the great light breaking in on a series of disciples who are in various forms of darkness.

The Synoptics mention that Mary came with other women and actually looked in the tomb (Mk 16:5; Lk 24:3) and encountered the angels. John mentions such details in the next section, so if his account is coordinated with the Synoptic accounts, then presumably this visit by Mary happened earlier at the tomb, while it was still dark. Perhaps Mary had hurried on ahead of the other women. She does not look into the tomb at this point. Since it was dark, she would not have been able to see anything even if she had.

Mary assumes someone has taken Jesus' body because the tomb is standing open. Tomb robbery was not uncommon. Indeed, one of the caesars of the first century A.D. (it is unclear whether it was Augustus, Tiberius or Claudius) made the disturbance of graves and tombs a capital offense (cf. Barrett 1987:13-15). Mary, however, may not have had such hostile activity in mind (see vv. 13, 15). In any case, she runs to the two apostles with her disturbing news. A little later in the morning she goes to the disciples with a much different message (v. 18). One can only pass on what one knows.

The grammar may suggest the disciples were staying in two different places (repetition of pros, not represented in the NIV; cf. v. 10), though not necessarily far apart from one another. If she knows of Peter's denial of the Lord, then her fetching him is quite striking. Certainly the Beloved Disciple knows of the denial, but there is no suggestion he rejects Peter because of it. They had all deserted the Lord that night.

The focus now shifts to Peter and the Beloved Disciple and to their race to the tomb (vv. 3-4). There has been much speculation regarding the significance of the Beloved Disciple's outrunning Peter. The idea that this Gospel favors the Beloved Disciple at the expense of Peter has become popular, but is not supported by the text, for "in no place is Peter criticized or devalued" (Schnackenburg 1982:314; cf. Brown 1970:1006-7; Beasley-Murray 1987:373-74). The idea that the Beloved Disciple was spurred on by a greater love is possible, given that Peter's love must be reaffirmed later (21:15-17). But perhaps it was not a lesser love that slowed Peter, but rather a great love that was burdened by shame. But if the Beloved Disciple had so much love, why did he pause at the tomb entrance? And if Peter loved less or was ashamed, why did he charge on in? Others attribute the cause to Peter's being older. The text does not offer guidance for such speculations.

While there were a few different kinds of tombs in use at this period (cf. Meyers 1976:906-8), the details provided here (vv. 5-7) help indicate the type in which Jesus was buried. Most likely it had a low entrance and a step down into the central, rectangular pit, with shelves cut into the rock around the pit (see diagram in R. H. Smith 1976:414). If Jesus had been laid on the shelf either to the right or left of the entrance, then only part of the grave clothes would be visible from the entrance. If he had been positioned with his head toward the entrance wall, this would explain why the cloth for Jesus' head was not noticed until they actually entered the tomb.

Great attention is given to the grave clothes. The strips of linen (vv. 5-6; othonia) were the covering for the body, whether they consisted of strips, as in the NIV, or a shroud (see comment on 19:40) or both. Since Jesus' resurrected body was able to appear in a locked room (v. 19), it seems he simply passed through the grave clothes. With the body gone, the clothes were presumably collapsed, though perhaps retaining much of their shape due to the spices. The cloth for Jesus' head (soudarion) was either a face covering or a cloth tied around Jesus' face to hold his jaw in place (see comment on 11:44). If the latter, then perhaps John's description indicates the cloth was lying in place, still in the oval shape it had when around Jesus' head. Or it could be John means this cloth, however it had been used, was in a separate place, rolled or wrapped up (v. 7, entetyligmenon). Jesus' body passed through the grave clothes, presumably including the soudarion, so the fact that the soudarion was rolled up suggests Jesus tidied up before leaving! "There were no traces of haste. The deserted tomb bore the marks of perfect calm" (Westcott 1908:2:340). The royal calmness of Jesus throughout his Passion is also hinted at here in his resurrection.

When the Beloved Disciple entered, he saw and believed (v. 8). What is this faith, since the next verse says they still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead (v. 9)? Such faith, with only limited understanding, has been true of the disciples throughout this Gospel, beginning from the first sign (2:11). It is a true faith, for it is based in an openness and receptivity to God. With this faith one is able to recognize what is seen and heard in God's presence and activity, though often one does not understand much more than that. Here the Beloved Disciple sees an empty tomb and inside grave clothes neatly rolled up. If Jesus' body had been stolen, the thieves would not have left the grave clothes behind. If Jesus had revived and had somehow struggled out of the grave clothes (not likely since seventy-five pounds of spices held them together), then they would be torn to shreds and the soudarion would not be rolled up. So the Beloved Disciple sees that something very strange has happened. He has faith in that he recognizes God's fingerprints at the scene. But he still does not understand the full meaning of what he sees.

John does not say whether Peter also believed at this point. But he does say that neither of them understood the Scripture regarding resurrection, thereby admitting his own ignorance at this point. Several texts of Scripture have been suggested as the ones to which John is referring (Ps 16:10; Hos 6:2; Jon 1:17), but he may simply mean the Scripture's witness as a whole, as when Paul says Christ "was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures" (1 Cor 15:4; cf. Lk 24:44-47; Beasley-Murray 1987:373).

This confession of ignorance puts the Beloved Disciple in the same boat as Peter, contrary to views that play the two disciples off against one another. They are able to bear witness to the empty tomb and the grave clothes, though not yet to the resurrection. But they do not bear witness at all. Rather, they simply return to the places where they are staying (v. 10; see comment on v. 2). If they do speak to the other disciples, John does not mention it. This lack of witness is another sign that although the Beloved Disciple's faith may be significant, it is still lacking.

11but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus' body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.
13They asked her, "Woman, why are you crying?"
14"They have taken my Lord away," she said, "and I don't know where they have put him." At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
15"Woman," he said, "why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?"
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him."
16Jesus said to her, "Mary."
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, "Rabboni!" (which means Teacher).
17Jesus said, "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, 'I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.' "
18Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: "I have seen the Lord!" And she told them that he had said these things to her.

John 20:11-18


Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene (20:11-18)

John does not describe when Mary returns to the tomb; he simply picks up the story with her there. The emphasis is on her crying (vv. 11, 13, 15). Her great love is poured out in her grief. She thinks she is alone, though "like other sorrowful disciples since" (H. C. G. Moule 1898:48), she actually has angels in front of her and the Lord behind her. When she bends down to look in the tomb she sees the angels. They are sitting, presumably on the shelf, at the two ends of the grave clothes, that is, where Jesus' body had been. Such heavenly messengers appear at many of the significant points in salvation history. Like the grave clothes, their presence witnesses "that the powers of heaven have been at work here" (Beasley-Murray 1987:374).

Often in Scripture the person who encounters an angel is struck with terror. But if Mary felt such a reaction, John does not mention it. Indeed, there is no indication that she even recognizes them as angels, presumably due to is the depth of her grief. The angels speak to her with great compassion: Woman, why are you crying? (v. 13). This is in striking contrast with the angels' triumphant announcement of the resurrection recorded in the Synoptics (Mt 28:5-7 par. Mk 16:6-7 par. Lk 24:5-7). In the face of this grief the angels do not bombard her with good news but rather ask the question that can lead to the healing word.

Mary's answer (v. 13) shows that she is totally focused on the fact that Jesus' body is missing. He is still her Lord even though he is dead; her loyalty is still fixed on him. In saying she does not know where they have put him she seems to assume that Joseph of Arimathea had his workmen move Jesus to a more permanent site (H. C. G. Moule 1898:58).

Her answer gives the angels a perfect opportunity to proclaim the good news, but they are interrupted by the appearance of the Lord himself. Mary turns to see Jesus (v. 14). Perhaps she heard him or simply sensed a presence behind her, or perhaps, as Chrysostom suggests, "while she was speaking, Christ suddenly appeared behind her, striking the angels with awe" (In John 86.1). She saw him, but she did not realize that it was Jesus (v. 14). She had not been able to pick up on the clues provided by the grave clothes nor even recognize the angels who spoke with her. Now she sees the very object of her concern, but she is unable to recognize him. Such can be the blinding effect of profound emotions. In this case her inability to recognize him also seems to be due to the character of Jesus' resurrection body, since such failure is typical of encounters with him (cf. Mt 28:17; Mk 16:12; Lk 24:16, 37; Jn 21:4).

Jesus is well aware of her condition, and he comes to her with great love and gentleness. The good news is not just that Jesus arose but that the character of God is revealed in Jesus. He is life, and he is also love. He asks the same question asked by the angels, Woman, . . . why are you crying? but immediately he focuses it further: Who is it you are looking for? This question, the first thing the risen Jesus says, echoes the very first thing he said at the beginning of this Gospel (1:38). It is a question that reveals the heart.

Mary does not answer the question but assumes that Jesus is Joseph's gardener and that he knows whom she is looking for (v. 15). His appearance has given her hope--hope that she can now find Jesus' dead body. She wants to care for Jesus' corpse. "So she plans a second interment for Jesus, while the living Jesus is there, and just about to lift her in the embrace of His manifested power and love" (H. C. G. Moule 1898:59).

The sight of the grave clothes and of angels and of Jesus himself have not been able to pierce her darkness. But when Jesus calls her name she knows his voice, for she is a true sheep (10:3-4). Rabboni could mean "my dear teacher," and such endearment would be in keeping with Mary's attachment to Jesus. But the term is not always used so (cf. Mk 10:51), and John simply translates it teacher. Jesus calls her by the name he used for her before, and she responds with the title she used before. She would naturally assume that their relationship could pick up where it left off and continue on as before. Jesus' response, however, lets her know there has been a radical change in him and consequently in his relationship with his followers.This change is indicated when Jesus tells her not to touch him (v. 17). The use of the present tense (haptou) suggests in this context that he is not forbidding her to touch him but telling her to stop that which she is already doing. Apparently, then, when Mary recognizes Jesus she approaches him and touches him. John does not describe what exactly happens. It is possible that she is touching him on the arm or hand, to be assured that he is really there (H. C. G. Moule 1898:64-66). In this case, Jesus would be saying, "You don't have to continue to touch me since (gar) I have not yet ascended to the Father--I really am here." Or perhaps she kneels before him and grabs his feet (Mt 28:9; cf. Beasley-Murray 1987:376), not just touching him, but holding onto him, as in the NIV. Such clinging may suggest she is not only trying to assure herself that he is really there, but expressing her desire that he not leave again. In this case, Jesus lets her know that she must not try to restrict him, for he has not yet ascended to the Father.

Jesus says he is still on the move, and he also sets Mary in motion to bear the news to the disciples. She has just found him, and now she is sent away, but she is sent with a commission. As the ancient church put it, she becomes an apostle to the apostles. The message she is given says a great deal about the new phase that has begun in the relations between the Father, the Son and the disciples. Indications of change begin with the commission itself: Go instead to my brothers and tell them (v. 17). This is the first time in this Gospel that Jesus refers to his disciples as his brothers (cf. Mt 12:50 par. Mk 3:35 par. Lk 8:21). This implies not only that Jesus has not put off his humanity in his resurrected state (Alford 1980:980), but that he has inaugurated a new level of intimacy between himself and his disciples. The new community he founded during his ministry became a new family at the cross (19:26-27), and now the disciples are to enter into this new form of relationship.

This new relationship is expressed in the message Mary is to convey: tell them, "I am returning [ascending, anabaino] to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God" (v. 17). It is perhaps surprising that his first message is not "I have risen from the dead." He does not focus on himself in this way; he focuses on himself in relation to his Father. Jesus had spoken of his going to the Father, both in his general teaching (7:33-36) and in the farewell discourse to his disciples (13:3; 14:2-4, 12, 28; 16:5, 10, 17, 28). The Father is his center of reference, and to return to him is his greatest joy and therefore the joy of his disciples (14:28). So the message I am returning to my Father expresses Jesus' great delight. He has finished the work (19:30) and can now return to the Father.

His returning to the Father is also good news for the disciples, not just because they share in his joy, but also for their own condition. For when Jesus returns to the Father he will send the Paraclete, who will teach them all things and complete their union with the Father and the Son (16:7; cf. 14:16-17, 28; 15:26). This new relationship has already been established through Jesus' death and resurrection, but the disciples will enter into it fully when the Spirit comes. The message Jesus gives Mary shows the christological basis of the new relationship. "Because God is Jesus' Father, he is also their Father; because he is Jesus' God, he is also their God. They are taken up into the fellowship that unites Jesus and the Father" (Ridderbos 1997:640). Jesus is the point of contact between the disciples and the Father (see comment on 17:21-22). The Father is the Father of the disciples in this new intimacy precisely because he is Jesus' Father, for the disciples are now Jesus' brothers.

Jesus characterizes the time of his resurrection appearances as the time when he is ascending to the Father. He has received his orders, and he is about to ship out. This focus implies a contrast between "the passing nature of Jesus' presence in his post-resurrectional appearances and the permanent nature of his presence in the Spirit" (Brown 1970:1015). But it does not mean the resurrection and the ascension have somehow been blended into one another or that the one has been replaced by the other (Carson 1991:645). Jesus must return to the Father before the Paraclete can come (16:7). The fact that Jesus imparts the Spirit later this same day (v. 22) suggests to many that John does not view the ascension as a definite act as described by Luke (Lk 24:51; Acts 1:9-11). But we will see that the account of Jesus' breathing impartation of the Spirit suggests his giving of the Spirit, like his ascension, was not a simple event. John may not describe the ascension, but his account assumes it, as becomes evident in his description of the impartation of the Spirit and what follows.

Mary Magdalene goes off and announces to the disciples what she has seen and heard. John does not mention the poor reception that was given to her message (Mk 16:11 par. Lk 24:11), though the fearful, doubting state of the disciples in the next section implies as much. All a witness can do is share what he or she knows to be true. Christian witness should not attempt to share an experience; it should direct people to Jesus so people can encounter him for themselves. Mary's message could alert the disciples to the fact that Jesus was alive, but they had to come to faith for themselves. Jesus met Mary in a way that was best for her. Now he will do the same for the disciples as a group.

Jesus Appears to His Disciples

19On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
21Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." 22And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven."

John 20:19-23


Jesus Appears to the Disciples as a Group (20:19-23)

In the evening of the day of the resurrection the disciples were gathered together. They had heard the witness of Mary (v. 18) and perhaps also of the Beloved Disciple and Peter, as well as of other women mentioned in the Synoptics, though John does not mention any of these. Perhaps her witness has given them hope and expectancy or perhaps has just confused them; the only thing John mentions is their fear of the Jewish opponents. The Feast of Unleavened Bread was still in progress, but these disciples are isolated from the festivities. They have lost the feast of Israel and have not yet discovered the peace of Jesus. Their hearts were troubled before the crucifixion (14:1), and now, if anything, they are more so.

Despite the locked doors, Jesus appears in their midst and greets them with the greeting still common today in that part of the world--Peace be with you (v. 19). In his farewell discourse Jesus had given them peace and charged them not to fear (14:27), and now he will begin to lead them into that experience. This may be a common greeting, but in this context the full significance of the word peace is present. In the Old Testament peace is closely associated with the blessing of God, especially the salvation to be brought by the Messiah (cf. Ps 29:11; Is 9:6; 52:7; 55:12; Ezek 37:26; Zech 9:10; cf. Osborne 1984:166). Now indeed such peace has come, for "his `Shalom!' on Easter evening is the complement of `It is finished!' on the cross, for the peace of reconciliation and life from God is now imparted" (Beasley-Murray 1987:379).

The disciples, apparently did not receive peace from this greeting, for it is only after Jesus showed them his hands and side that they were filled with joy at the sight of him (v. 20). Jesus had said they would have joy when they saw him again (16:21-22), and now they do, once the wounds have certified it is really him. Such joy, like peace, was viewed as a mark of God's salvation, including the expected time of salvation in the future (Ps 96:11; 97:1; Is 49:13; 61:10; 66:10, 14; Joel 2:21-27; Hab 3:18; Zech 10:7). Both the peace and the joy come from the presence of Jesus himself, the very presence of God come to earth.

Jesus immediately speaks of a mission for these disciples, just as he did with Mary Magdalene. He repeats his blessing of peace. If peace prepares them to receive him, they also need it to receive his commission: As the Father has sent me, I am sending you (v. 21). Over forty times throughout the Gospel, Jesus is said to have been sent by God, and now that will become the characteristic of his disciples also. The Son has a role in the sending of the Paraclete (14:16; 15:26; 16:7), and he plays a role in the sending of the disciples. The Son, like the Father, sends. Mission is at the heart of discipleship.

Two different words are used here for sending: As the Father has sent [apostello] me, I am sending [pempo] you. It is often said that apostello denotes being sent with a commission with an emphasis on the sender whereas pempo focuses on the sending as such (Rengstorf 1964a:398-406). But this distinction is quite dubious (Köstenberger 1998b:97-106) and certainly the two words are used interchangeably in John (Barrett 1978:569). Of greater significance is the idea of comparison. The Son was sent as one completely dependent upon the Father and one with the Father, so he was the presence of God while yet remaining distinct from the Father. Such a relationship is also at the heart of the community of Jesus' disciples. This text, accordingly, has enormous implications for the nature and mission of the church. C. K. Barrett addresses this issue with great clarity:

The sending of Jesus by God meant that in the words, works, and person of Jesus men were veritably confronted not merely by a Jewish Rabbi but by God himself (1:18; 14:9; and many passages). It follows that in the apostolic mission of the church . . . the world is veritably confronted not merely by a human institution but by Jesus the Son of God (13:20; 17:18). It follows further that as Jesus in his ministry was entirely dependent upon and obedient to God the Father, who sealed and sanctified him (4:34; 5:19; 10:37; 17:4, and other passages: 6:27; 10:36), and acted in the power of the Spirit who rested upon him (1:32), so the church is the apostolic church, commissioned by Christ, only in virtue of the fact that Jesus sanctified it (17:19) and breathed the Spirit into it (v. 22), and only so far as it maintains an attitude of perfect obedience to Jesus (it is here, of course, that the parallelism between the relation of Jesus to the Father and the relation of the church to Jesus breaks down). The life and mission of the church are meaningless if they are detached from this historical and theological context. (Barrett 1978:569)

Thus, in this Gospel, which focuses so much attention on the identity of Jesus, we also have a clear revelation of the core identity of the church. Unfortunately, the church has difficulty living up to this identity, despite the giving of the Spirit, which John now recounts.

If this community is to function in the way just described, then the gift of the Spirit is essential. Human beings in themselves are not capable of manifesting God's presence and doing God's will as Jesus did. Indeed, without the Spirit there is no spiritual life (3:3, 5). But Jesus now has been glorified, so the Spirit can be given (7:39; see comment on 16:7). At this point the life that has been in Jesus in his union with God is now shared with the disciples. The new state of affairs, described in the farewell discourse and hinted at already by the risen Christ (v. 17), begins to take effect among the disciples. They have been reunited with Jesus and now are given his very life by the Spirit--not only reunited with him, but beginning to be united to him. The word used for breathed on (emphysao) is the same word used in the Greek Old Testament to describe God's action when he formed the man from the dust of the ground and "breathed into his face the breath of life" and the man became a living being (Gen 2:7; cf. Wisdom of Solomon 15:11; also Ezek 37:5-10, 14). This allusion implies there is now the new beginning of life, though, as George Beasley-Murray says, "Strictly speaking, one should not view this as the beginning of the new creation but rather as the beginning of the incorporation of man into the new creation which came into being in the Christ by his incarnation, death, and resurrection, and is actualized in man by the Holy Spirit (cf. 2 Cor 5:17)" (1987:381).

This imparting of the Spirit is clearly a climactic moment in the Gospel. Precisely because it is climactic one wonders how it is related to the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2). On the assumption that both John and Luke are describing the one giving of the Spirit a number of scholars think the accounts reflect different theological emphases (for example, Brown 1970:1038-39; Beasley-Murray 1987:381-82). Others would embrace a view condemned at the Fifth Ecumenical Council at Constantinople in A.D. 553, namely, that the imparting of the Spirit in John is symbolic of the later experience at Pentecost, "a kind of acted parable pointing forward to the full enduement still to come" (Carson 1991:655). Yet another position is that the two accounts describe two different events, though there is much variety in how the differences are understood (cf. Brown 1970:1038; Beasley-Murray 1987:381).

The evidence seems, in fact, to suggest that two different events are mentioned. The breathing of the Spirit by Jesus is certainly climactic, but the results do not fulfill the promises he made earlier in this Gospel. A week later they are not bearing witness but are back in the room with locked doors (v. 26). In the next chapter they are back fishing for fish, not for disciples. Furthermore, the conditions for the presence of the Spirit have not been completely met. The Spirit will be given after Jesus' return to the Father (14:16, 26; 16:7, 13). Jesus is in the process of returning but has not yet returned. Thus, it appears that Jesus' giving of the Spirit, like his ascending to the Father, is a complex process and not a simple, one-time event. John is filling in details not given by Luke regarding the beginning of the disciples' new life and ministry (though see the hint in Acts 1:2) just as he did regarding the outset of Jesus' ministry in his connection with John the Baptist and in the calling of the first disciples.

John's account describes a preliminary stage of preparation for ministry. "The mission is inaugurated, but not actually begun. . . . The actual beginning of the mission lies outside the scope of the Fourth Gospel. There remains, therefore, room for the Pentecostal outpouring, after which the disciples take up the mission in public in the power of the Spirit descending from Father and Son in heaven" (Hoskyns 1940b:653). Such preparation is clearly the point in Jesus' bringing the disciples to faith in himself and in the commissioning. But in what sense is the presence of the Spirit preparatory? A clue may be found in one of the strangest aspects of these first encounters: Thomas was not present when the Spirit was given (v. 24), yet he is the one who confesses Jesus as Lord and God, a confession which is the work of the Spirit. This suggests that the breathing of the Spirit was not simply directed at the individuals present, as if one had to be hit by the molecules coming from Jesus' mouth or nose in order to receive the Spirit. Rather, the Spirit is now unleashed into the world in a new way and begins to bring about new life where he finds faith. The disciples enter into a new phase in their life with God, but it is not yet the time of their active witness, as it will be from Pentecost on. Thus, it would seem John is describing the conception of the church, and Luke (in Acts), the birth.Jesus then speaks further of his commission to them: If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven (v. 23). This is a surprising way to put the commission, since it is never said that anyone is "forgiven" in this Gospel. While the reality of forgiveness is depicted (e.g., see comments on 5:14 and 8:11), this is the only occasion where it is stated explicitly. The ultimate sin for which one needs forgiveness is the rejection of Jesus (9:41; 15:22-24; 16:9). The disciples are to bear witness to Jesus (15:26-27), not just by representing Jesus but by actually being the presence of Jesus through the Spirit. In this way they will be the agents of the Spirit's confrontation of the world (16:8-11), which is a continuation of Jesus' own confrontation. "The apostles were commissioned to carry on Christ's work, and not to begin a new one" (Westcott 1908:2:350). Through the disciples' witness to Jesus by word and by the life and love of the community, the world will be forced to choose for or against Jesus, just as they were during Jesus' own ministry. Those who repent and believe in Jesus can be assured of forgiveness, and those who refuse to repent can be assured that their sins are not forgiven. Such is the consequence of rejecting the Lamb of God who has taken away the sin of the world. This is how judgment takes place as people come in contact with the light (see comments on 3:19-21; 9:39-41; 12:44-50).

The ancient church understood this forgiveness and nonforgiveness as referring to admission to baptism (cf. Brown 1970:1042). Since baptism is associated with the forgiveness of sins (for example, Acts 2:38) this is certainly an important way in which this commission has been fulfilled, though it does not exhaust the commission. The text has also been applied to the matter of discipline within the community. Accordingly, the text has served to ground the sacrament of penance (cf. Brown 1970:1041). Such discipline was indeed necessary. The issue of cleansing and forgiveness among the disciples is of concern in the Gospel (13:3-11; 21:15-17; cf. Hoskyns 1940b:650). John's later reference to the sin unto death and the sin not unto death (1 Jn 5:16) seems to deal with matters that preclude membership in the community (cf. Whitacre 1982:136-40). The value and validity of the forms that developed over the centuries to embody such discipline is a separate matter, but such discipline in itself would be another way in which this commission has been fulfilled. This would be true whether or not the group gathered at this point is limited to the eleven (minus Thomas), though if this commission is given to the disciples in general, then presumably the exercise of discipline in the community was not limited to the leadership, as represented by the Twelve (cf. Mt 16:19; 18:15-17). John's first letter is an interesting study in the combination of a strong authority figure (John) and shared responsibility, as illustrated by 1 John 5:16 itself.

Both of these matters--entering into the community and maintaining the health of the community and its members--are a significant part of the missionary part of this commission. For the life of the community itself is a major aspect of the witness to the world (17:21, 23). It is through the disciples' unity with God and with one another that the world will be confronted with the truth about the Father and the Son. Such unity in God cannot include error and evil, for they are not of God, hence the need for discipline for the sake of the mission itself.

This encounter between Jesus and his band of disciples comes in the midst of a series of stories concerning individuals and speaks of the community Jesus has created. Both the imparting of the Spirit and the commission given reveal that the foundation of the church, its conception and its commissioning, was a concern to Jesus. "The foundation of the church is shown to be the actual words, actions, death and resurrection of Jesus who came in the flesh. And it is from him that the Spirit proceeds" (Hoskyns and Davey 1947:165). In Luke, Jesus' involvement is evident in his gathering the disciples together and charging them to wait for power from on high (Lk 24:48; Acts 1:4-5). In John we see Jesus' own giving of the Spirit. "What the Lord will do invisibly from heaven He here does visibly on earth" (Hoskyns 1940b:653).

Jesus Appears to Thomas

24Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!"
But he said to them, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it."
26A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" 27Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe."
28Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!"
29Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."
30Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31But these are written that you may[1] believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

John 20:24-31


Jesus Appears to Thomas (20:24-29)

John now tells us that Thomas had not been present on that first day of the resurrection (v. 24). The disciples tell him they have seen the Lord, but he does not believe them. Perhaps they have only seen a ghost (cf. Mt 14:26 par. Mk 6:49). In fact, Luke tells of a meeting between Jesus and the disciples at which the disciples think they are seeing a ghost (Lk 24:37). So to convince them he is not a ghost, Jesus invites them to touch him and he eats a piece of broiled fish (Lk 24:39-43). Perhaps Thomas is simply saying he needs to see the same evidence that they have seen (Westcott 1908:2:353).

John's description of Thomas touching the wounds is quite dramatic (v. 25). Thomas wants to shove his hand into Jesus' side! On the assumption that the disciples have told Thomas about Jesus' wounds, some have taken Thomas's statement as evidence that Jesus' wound was large enough for one to put one's hand in and that it was not closed over. But more likely Thomas is simply being dramatic, as he was earlier in the Gospel (11:16). Similarly, the language he uses when he says he will not believe is very emphatic (ou me pisteuso).

A week later, the next Sunday after the resurrection, the disciples (including Thomas) were again in a locked room (v. 26). Jesus' appearances on Sundays, along with the timing of the resurrection itself, contributed to the church's making that the primary day of worship (cf. Beasley-Murray 1987:385). The expression John uses is literally "after eight days," since Jews counted the beginning and the ending of a period of time. This term itself was taking on special meaning at the time John is writing. In Barnabas (from about A.D. 96-100) the eighth day represents "the beginning of another world" (15:8). The author links it with Jesus' resurrection: "That is why we spend the eighth day in celebration, the day on which Jesus both arose from the dead and, after appearing again, ascended into heaven" (Barnabas 15:9).

Faith throughout the Gospel is depicted as progressive, renewed in the face of each new revelation of Jesus. The other disciples have moved on to the next stage, but Thomas has not been able to. To not move on when Jesus calls us to do so is to shift into reverse and move away. Both believing and unbelieving are dynamic--we are growing in one direction or the other. Thus, when Jesus appears in their midst he challenges Thomas to move on ahead in the life of faith, to stop doubting and believe (v. 27). The actual expression used may capture the dynamic quality, since ginomai often has the sense of "becoming" and the present tense "marks the process as continually going on" (Westcott 1908:2:355). Translated woodenly this reads, "Stop becoming unbelieving and get on with becoming believing" (me ginou apistos alla pistos). To get Thomas moving in the right direction again Jesus offers him the chance to feel his wounds. His offer echoes Thomas's own graphic language from verse 25, suggesting that Jesus was actually present when Thomas was making his protest or that he could at least perceive what was going on, an ability Jesus had even before he was raised from the dead (cf. 1:48).

John does not say whether Thomas actually did touch Jesus' wounds. The impression is that he did not, for John says, "Thomas answered and said to him . . ." That is, Thomas's confession is an immediate response to seeing Jesus and hearing his offer. Furthermore, in Jesus' response to Thomas he mentions seeing but not touching (v. 29).

Thomas's confession of Jesus as my Lord and my God is yet another climax in this Gospel. Jesus has invited him to catch up with the others in their new stage of faith, and he shoots past them and heads to the top of the class. His confession is climactic not only as part of the Gospel's story line, but also as an expression of the core of John's witness to Jesus in this Gospel. Thomas confesses Jesus as God when he sees that the crucified one is alive. It is in the crucifixion that God himself is made known, for he is love, and love is the laying down of one's life (1 Jn 4:8; 3:16). But God is also life. In John, this God is revealed perfectly in the death of the Son, but this death would be nothing without the life. When Thomas finds death and life juxtaposed in Jesus he realizes who the one standing before him really is.

Thomas has accepted the revelation, but he gets no commendation from Jesus. Rather, Jesus looks ahead to those who will believe through the witness of these disciples who have seen (cf. 15:27; 17:20): blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed (v. 29). This beatitude, like others Jesus had spoken, is a shocking reversal of common expectations (cf. Mt 5:3-12; Lk 6:20-26). It suggests that if seeing is believing, as it was for Thomas, believing is also seeing. What matters is the relationship established by faith. But this faith is not a vague or general feeling, nor is it merely an intellectual assent to a position. It is openness and acceptance and trust directed toward God in Jesus. In John, as in the rest of the New Testament, the concern is not simply with various conceptions of God or various ideas, but with events in history that demand an interpretation and a response. If John is the "spiritual Gospel," as Clement of Alexandria said (Eusebius Church History 4.14.7), it is so not in the sense of being nonmaterial or ahistorical, for in John there is no sharp dichotomy between spirit and matter, though the two are not confused with one another. Rather, this Gospel is spiritual in the sense that it interprets historical events in the light of divine reality. As E. C. Hoskyns and Noel Davey have said, "The Fourth Gospel persuades and entices the reader to venture a judgment upon history" (Hoskyns and Davey 1947:263). Thomas's confession was such a judgment, and now Jesus challenges all who come after to venture a judgment upon this history, that is, upon his person, his presence through the Spirit in this particular community and through the life he offers. Peter later describes such believers: "Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls" (1 Pet 1:8-9).

John Declares His Purpose in Writing This Gospel (20:30-31)

John's statement of purpose is directly linked with Jesus' blessing upon those who have not seen and yet have believed (v. 29). John says, "therefore" (oun, left out of the NIV), while (men) Jesus did many other signs, these (tauta de) are written that you may believe. John refers to the Gospel as a whole, this book, and this entire sentence (vv. 30-31 are one sentence in the Greek) is appropriate for the whole Gospel, not just for the present chapter. The reference to the presence of his disciples is probably due to the crucial role their witness plays in the faith of those who come later. They had been with him from the beginning (15:27) and thus had received the full revelation. While many of Jesus' signs were done in the presence of others, the presence of his disciples is the crucial fact, for it is they who have believed and been enabled to, by the Spirit, understand their significance and bear witness to Jesus and Jesus' witness to the Father.

John's purpose is precisely to enable others to experience the blessedness that Jesus has just spoken of, which comes through faith. The two central titles for Jesus are Christ and Son of God, representing in this Gospel both the fulfillment of Jewish expectation and much more--the personal presence of God himself in our midst. The purpose (or result; hina can mean either) of this believing is to have life in his name. This life "belongs to the Father (5:26; 6:57) and the Son (11:25; 14:6), and is offered to men through Jesus' words (6:63; 10:10) and death (3:16; 7:39) on the basis of faith (3:16; 5:24; 20:31)" (Osborne 1984:176). Thus, it is the very life of God himself made available in the Son. It is in his name because it is in fellowship with him as he has made himself known (see comment on 1:12). He has brought life, but this life is not a gift separate from himself. Rather, it is a life in himself who, like the Father, is life itself (1:4; 5:26; 11:25; cf. Chrysostom In John 87.2). To live in his name is to live his own life, with its source in the Father, and therefore to live his pattern of life. This means to love as he loved (13:34; 1 Jn 2:6), obedient to God, totally trusting him and interpreting all the events in our own lives in the light of his divine presence. John expresses this same call--to share in God's life--at the beginning of his first letter. "The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ" (1 Jn 1:2-3).

There has been much discussion about whether John is writing for non-Christians, that they might come to faith, or for Christians, that they might continue and grow in the faith. This difference is perhaps reflected in the two main readings in the manuscripts for the word believe. Some texts have an aorist tense (pisteusete) and some a present (pisteuete), only one letter distinguishing them from one another. The aorist could be rendered "begin to believe," and the present, "continue to believe." The manuscript support is fairly evenly divided between the two. The Gospel as it now stands contains elements that clearly have in mind someone who has not heard the story before (1:38) as well as other elements that assume readers (or hearers) do know the story (11:2; cf. 12:3). Furthermore, given John's dynamic view of faith (20:29), there is a sense in which every believer is to continue to grow in his or her faith. While it appears John's primary purpose was to encourage believers, there was probably also an evangelistic concern. Certainly the Gospel has proved quite valuable for both purposes!

Jesus and the Miraculous Catch of Fish

1Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Tiberias.[1] It happened this way: 2Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. 3"I'm going out to fish," Simon Peter told them, and they said, "We'll go with you." So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
4Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
5He called out to them, "Friends, haven't you any fish?"
"No," they answered.
6He said, "Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some." When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.
7Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, "It is the Lord," he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. 8The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards.[2] 9When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.
10Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish you have just caught."
11Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. 12Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast." None of the disciples dared ask him, "Who are you?" They knew it was the Lord. 13Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.

John 21:1-14


Jesus Appears to His Disciples While They Are Fishing (21:1-14)

After his appearances in Jerusalem that established the faith of the disciples, Jesus now appears in Galilee to a portion of the disciples. The seven disciples mentioned (v. 2) may be symbolic of the entire group, though John does not draw attention to the number. More important is the simple fact that they are together. Jesus had formed the nucleus of the new community during his ministry and had further established it at the cross and in the breathing of the Spirit. Now he reminds them of his lordship and their dependency upon him in the fulfillment of the commission he has given them (20:21-23). He does this by focusing on two of the leaders among the disciples, Peter and the Beloved Disciple.

John does not tell us why the disciples are back in Galilee, but in fact Jesus had told them to return there, where he would meet them (Mk 14:28; 16:7). They seem to have been sitting around, unsure of what to do, until Peter decides to go fishing and the others come along (v. 3). Peter is taking the lead, but what sort of lead is it? Some see this act as "aimless activity undertaken in desperation" (Brown 1970:1096) or even apostasy, that is, abandoning the Lord and returning to their former life (Hoskyns 1940b:660). Others think they went fishing simply because they needed to eat (Beasley-Murray 1987:399). The latter is probably true enough, but there is also a sense that Peter and the others, while not necessarily aimless and certainly not apostate, are doing what is right in their own eyes. The stories in this chapter reveal Jesus' bringing his disciples, especially Peter, more completely under his lordship. The disciples do not know what to do, so they do that which is necessary, and in taking this initiative they put themselves in a place where Christ meets them. Here is the simple truth, attested to by the saints, that when we are uncertain what to do we should simply do our duty and God will guide.

That night they catch nothing (v. 3), a graphic portrayal of barrenness. They have done what they thought was the right thing but experience utter failure. This prepares them to learn one of the central lessons of discipleship--apart from Jesus they can do nothing (15:5). Jesus has taught this lesson before, for "never in the Gospels do the disciples catch a fish without Jesus' help" (Brown 1970:1071)! But they need the lesson repeated, as we often do as well.

The turning point comes early in the morning, perhaps symbolizing the dawning of spiritual light. Jesus is described again as simply standing there, without a description of his arrival on the spot (v. 4; cf. 20:14, 19, 26). Also as earlier, they are not able to recognize him at first. Although some scholars take this as evidence that this chapter does not fit well after chapter 20, in fact this ignorance fits with the theme running throughout these chapters that there was something different about Jesus' body. John stresses in these descriptions both the continuity and discontinuity of Jesus' body.

Jesus takes the initiative and calls to them: Friends, haven't you any fish? (v. 5). The question is put in a form that expects a negative answer. This may be the common way of asking a hunter or fisherman whether they have had success (Brown 1970:1070), but in this case the one asking already knows the answer. The word translated friends (paidiai) is more literally "children" or even "little children." Many follow J. H. Moulton's suggestion (1908:170 n. 1), based on modern Greek, that this is an expression similar to the British "lads." While this usage would fit here, neither Liddell, Scott and Jones (1940), nor Bauer, Gingrich and Danker (1979) nor Oepke (1967b:638) site evidence for such a use in classical or Hellenistic Greek. In 1 John the word is used "as an affectionate address of the spiritual father to those committed to him" (Oepke 1967b:638; see 1 Jn 2:14, 18 and some manuscripts of 2:12; 3:7). This usage, unique to John, is probably the sense here in John 21 also (Oepke 1967b:638). Thus, this greeting was unusual and so would have sounded strange to the disciples, all the more so because they did not know who was calling them.

The disciples admit they have failed at fishing (v. 5), and Jesus tells them, Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some (v. 6). They could hear this as the idle suggestion of a bystander. But he does not say, "Try over there and you might find some." He doesn't offer a suggestion; he gives a promise that in fact they will find fish where he directs them to cast. When they obey they cannot even get the net into the boat because there are so many fish enclosed in it (v. 6). Such abundance echoes the enormous provision of wine at the wedding in Cana (2:1-11) and of bread and fish at the feeding of the five thousand (6:1-13). Most commentators see these fish as symbolic of the missionary work of the disciples, similar to Jesus' original call, "Come, follow me . . . and I will make you fishers of men" (Mt 4:19 par. Mk 1:17; not given by John). Such symbolism may be included, but the primary point seems to be Jesus' lordship and the need to be obedient to him for any labor to be fruitful.

Earlier, Mary recognized Jesus when he called her name, and the disciples recognized him through his wounds. Now he is recognized through the abundance that comes through obedience to his word. It is the Beloved Disciple who is able to discern the identity of the stranger on the shore (v. 7). It is typical of the Beloved Disciple that he was not mentioned explicitly in the list of those present (v. 2) and also that he is the one able to recognize the Lord. If Peter had been the one to recognize Jesus, one suspects he would have thrown himself into the sea straight away. But when the Beloved Disciple receives this insight he bears witness to it. He speaks specifically to Peter, thus continuing the motif throughout the resurrection narratives of the close relationship between these two disciples.

Peter trusts the witness of the Beloved Disciple, and so he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water (v. 7). This translation probably gives the wrong impression, since it suggests Peter was working with his undergarment on and added his outer garment before swimming to shore. This would be a good way to drown or at least slow oneself down. Perhaps, instead, he tied up the garment he was wearing so it would not hinder his swimming (Brown 1970:1072). The text, however, says that he was naked (en gar gymnos, paraphrased in the NIV), and this seems to have been typical for such work (Nun 1997:20-21). Most likely, then, he had been working naked and had put on a loincloth before swimming to shore (Nun 1997:23, 37). The other disciples follow in the boat, towing the catch (v. 8).

Peter's departure from the boat is mentioned, but his arrival on the shore is not. Some scholars think this omission is a sign that two stories have been joined together (cf. Schnackenburg 1982:345-47), but the story is coherent as it stands. The landing is told from the point of view of the Beloved Disciple and the other five disciples. There is no description of Peter talking with Jesus. The impression is thus given that his attempt to get to Jesus first did not do him much good. What the disciples notice is a charcoal fire with bread and fish already prepared (v. 9). The Lord has breakfast ready for them, another sign of his grace and provision, like the catch they have just taken. There is no indication of where Jesus got the bread and fish; the appearance of the food is as mysterious as his own.

The first one to speak is Jesus, and he tells them to bring some of the fish they have caught (v. 10). For the second time in this story Jesus gives them a command. Although Jesus addresses all the disciples (enenkate, bring, plural), it is Peter who brings the catch ashore, apparently by himself (v. 11). Peter's zeal to come to Jesus is now matched by his zeal to obey him.

A great many suggestions have been made over the years for the significance of the number 153 (cf. Beasley-Murray 1987:401-4), some suggestions more edifying than others. The emphasis in the story, however, is simply on how many fish there were and the fact that the net did not break. On the simplest level, these details speak of the abundance that the gracious God provides and how he also enables the abundance to be received. If more specific symbolism is present, perhaps the fish represent a large influx of converts from various nations and the unbroken net represents the unity of the church (for example, Brown 1970:1097).

At the feeding of the five thousand they had brought the bread and fish to Jesus, and he multiplied them (6:9-11). In this scene he already has food and invites them to add to it from their catch. Peter hauls up the fish, but there is no description of what is done with them. Rather, Jesus speaks yet another command--an invitation to have breakfast (v. 12). Throughout this encounter with Jesus the disciples have not said anything. The scene is one of great awe, with none of them daring to ask him, Who are you? (v. 12). There was something different about him, yet they were able to recognize him. The Lord Jesus is the focus of this story.

After inviting them to come and eat, he himself comes to the fire. He took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish (v. 13). This description echoes his action at the feeding of the five thousand (6:11) and provides the climax of this story. It answers their unasked questions--he is recognized in this breaking of the bread (cf. Lk 24:30-31). The master who commands them also serves them, continuing a theme found during the ministry (for example, 13:5, 13).

John concludes the story by saying, This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead (v. 14). Scholars see this note, like a similar note earlier (4:54), as evidence of poorly aligned sources, since this is in fact the fourth appearance recounted by John. But this conclusion misses the point because John is counting appearances to the disciples as a group, which would not include Jesus' appearance to Mary Magdalene. Jesus now appears to another partial gathering of the group, an appearance that reveals the same key characteristics as were manifested throughout the ministry, namely his lordship, his servanthood, his character as gracious giver of abundance and his love. He has met his disciples at a point of failure and revealed himself as the awesome Lord of creation who cares for them.The fact that he provides a meal indicates that "lordship includes fellowship" (Osborne 1984:179). Such fellowship with Jesus at a meal reminds one of the many times he shared such fellowship during his ministry, especially at the Last Supper and also the theme of the new community he has now established (see comments on 9:1--10:42 and 19:25-27). This association, as well as the tie in with the feeding of the five thousand, brings echoes of the Eucharist (cf. Brown 1970:1098-1100). This meal itself is not a Eucharist, but it embodies a central aspect of what Eucharist itself is about--communion with the risen Lord in the midst of his people.

John's note in verse 14 indicates that the focus of the story to this point is on Jesus and his appearance. It also signals a transition. This story has focused on Jesus' love and lordship, but Peter and the Beloved Disciple have also been featured. Now we will see Jesus' love and lordship in action in their lives specifically.

Jesus Reinstates Peter

15When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?"
"Yes, Lord," he said, "you know that I love you."
Jesus said, "Feed my lambs."
16Again Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me?"
He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you."
Jesus said, "Take care of my sheep."
17The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?"
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you." 18
Jesus said, "Feed my sheep. I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go." 19Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, "Follow me!"
20Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, "Lord, who is going to betray you?") 21When Peter saw him, he asked, "Lord, what about him?"
22Jesus answered, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me." 23Because of this, the rumor spread among the brothers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?"
24This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true.
25Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

John 21:15-25


Jesus Forms Peter as a Leader and as a Disciple (21:15-23)

Jesus' inviting his disciples to share a meal signals his love and fellowship with them. But he has unfinished business with Peter, the one who denied him in a special way. After breakfast Jesus speaks to Peter. Throughout this story Peter has been referred to as Simon Peter (vv. 2-3, 7b, 11) or simply as Peter (v. 7a), the name Jesus had given him (1:42; cf. Mk 3:16 par. Lk 6:14). But now Jesus calls him by his former name, Simon son of John (v. 15), "as if he were no longer (or not yet!) a disciple" (Michaels 1989:359).

In the first part of this chapter Jesus began with a question that revealed the disciples' poverty (v. 5), and then he gave a series of commands (vv. 6, 10, 12). So also now he questions Peter and then gives a command, and he does so three times. His question is extremely searching, indeed, it is the ultimate question in life: do you truly love me more than these? (v. 15). What does these refer to? If it is the net and boat, then this question gets at the central point of discipleship and reveals a person's heart. What do we love the most? Have we abandoned all to follow Jesus? Every time we are faced with a temptation this question is raised. Every time we become preoccupied with even the good things God gives us this question is raised.

But, while all of this is true, it is probably not the specific point here. By these Jesus probably means "these other disciples." According to the other Gospels, Peter had boasted that though all the others fall away, he would not (Mt 26:33 par. Mk 14:29; cf. Lk 22:33; Jn 13:37). John does not record this boast, but Peter's actions in swimming to shore and hauling up the net by himself reveal the same attitude. Jesus' question, therefore, goes even deeper than the issue of false attachments. He gets at the root of all sin, namely, pride.

Peter replies, Yes, Lord, . . . you know that I love you (v. 15). He does not claim to love Jesus more than the others do, which suggests he has benefited from having reflected on his shameful denials of the Lord. This response is typical of true discipleship, for it is humble and focuses on the Lord's own knowledge. According to the NIV it is also a humble response in that Peter does not claim to truly love Jesus, but only to love him. Behind this translation there are two verbs for love, truly love (agapao) and love (phileo). In the past it was common to find a great distinction between these two words, but in recent years the idea that they are close synonyms has come to prevail (for example, Carson 1991:676-77). The older idea that agapao is divine love and phileo a lower, human love does indeed go too far. For both verbs are used of the love of the Father for the Son (3:35; 5:20), and agapao can be used of false love, for example, the love of this world (2 Tim 4:10). So a simple distinction between the verbs is not justified, but this does not mean there is no distinction at all. For in this passage there is a pattern, with Jesus asking Peter twice whether he loves him (agapao) and each time Peter responding that, yes, he does love him (phileo). Then the third time Jesus switches to using Peter's word. Such a pattern suggests there is a distinction here (McKay 1985; H. C. G. Moule 1898:176), and since agapao is used more often in John for God's love than is phileo, "it was likely that agapao would be chosen for the higher meaning" (McKay 1985:322). The present context itself supports this view, for otherwise Peter would be claiming "the higher meaning" from the outset, which would not fit with his more chastened perspective. So the NIV seems justified in distinguishing these two terms in the present context.

Peter was not boastful when Jesus gave him the opportunity to be (v. 15), but by the third time Jesus asks whether he loves him, Peter is hurt, that is, deeply grieved (elypethe, v. 17). Jesus' asking three times recalls the three denials, and Peter's pride is cut to the quick. Here we see the Great Physician performing painful but necessary surgery. The light is shining in the darkness of Peter's heart, bringing life. For this is what John of the Ladder (c. A.D. 570-649) refers to as "joy-producing sorrow" (The Ladder of Divine Ascent, chap. 7), the repentance that enables one to experience the Lord's love and salvation. Without such brokenness we are full of self and unable to hear and receive the guidance of the Chief Shepherd.

In response to this searing third question, Peter says, Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you (v. 17). Two different words for "know" are used here, although these are not distinguished in the NIV. But as with the two words for "love," these words are in a pattern. Each time Peter has responded you know (sy oidas, vv. 15-17), but now he adds you know [sy ginoskeis] that I love you. The pattern here suggests that there is a distinction between oida and ginosko, with the latter perhaps meaning "you must be able to see" (McKay 1981:304). This shift of vocabulary, along with the reference to all things, reflects a view of the Lord that is more exalted and suggests that Peter's humility is deeper. "Do you see how he has become better and more sober, no longer self-willed or contradicting?" (Chrysostom In John 88.1). Peter is dying to self and finding his confidence only in the Lord. It is the Lord who knows (cf. 1:42, 47-48; 2:25). Despite the appearances, Peter does love Jesus.

After each profession of love Jesus gives a similar command, using different words. First he is to feed [boske] lambs (arnia, v. 15); then he is to shepherd [poimaine] sheep (probata, v. 16). The third command includes a word from both of the previous commands (v. 17, boske/probata), thereby tying the three commands together. While attempts have been made to find significant differences in these words, none are convincing (Brown 1970:1104-6; McKay 1985:332). Rather, this pattern suggests we have a comprehensive image of shepherding, a very familiar figure of speech for leadership over God's people. God himself was known as the shepherd of Israel (Gen 49:24; Ps 80:1; Is 40:11), and under him the leaders of his people were known as shepherds (2 Sam 5:2; Jer 23:4; Ezek 34). This motif continues in the New Testament (Acts 20:28; 1 Pet 2:25; 5:1-4). Jesus himself is the Good Shepherd (Jn 10:1-18), and now he commissions Peter to care for the flock that belongs to Jesus, for they are my lambs . . . my sheep. The community has already been established, and now Peter is given authority, though of a particular kind.

The key qualification for this task, as this chapter indicates, is a love for Jesus that is characterized by humility, dependence and obedience. Peter already had a devotion to Jesus, but he was still full of self will and was thrusting himself to the front. Such a proud attitude of heart would spell disaster for the community, as had already been evident in Israel's history right up to the opponents who had just had Jesus crucified and as has sadly been just as evident in the history of the church. But Peter himself learned his lesson, as is clear from his first letter. When he addresses the elders of the communities he does so as a "fellow elder" and encourages them to "be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers . . . not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away" (1 Pet 5:1-4). Here is authority exercised in humility and conscious of the Chief Shepherd. Such are marks of a true shepherd.

Jesus had predicted Peter's denials after Peter had said he was willing to die with him (13:37-38). Jesus told him, "Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later" (13:36). Here now is the call to follow. After Peter professes his obedient love, Jesus spells out the cost of that love. He contrasts Peter's youth, his life up to this point, with what is coming. He has been able to go wherever he wanted, but when he is old, Jesus tells him, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go (v. 18). Here is an explicit contrast between Peter's life of self will and his coming under the will of another. He has just submitted to Jesus and his will, and now Jesus says such submission is going to include being taken where he does not want to go.

John says this obscure saying is an indication of the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God (v. 19). The translation of the NIV (v. 18) could be a picture of death from natural causes after increasing senility. But according to tradition, Peter was crucified head down during the Neronian persecution in the midsixties A.D. (Eusebius Ecclesiastical History 2.25.5; 3.1.2-3). So John, late in the first century, knows that Peter's hands were stretched out and tied to a cross. The word dress (zonnymi) is a play on words. It is used for getting dressed, but it specifically means to gird, that is, fasten a belt or rope around one's clothes. While this word is not used for the binding of prisoners (cf. 18:12, 24; Acts 21:11-13), this could be the significance of this image. More likely, however, it refers here to the binding of a person's arms to the crossbeam as they are led to crucifixion (Beasley-Murray 1987:408-9).

The Good Shepherd laid down his life for the sheep, and this shepherd will have to do likewise, though his death will not, of course, take away the sins of the world. He has submitted his will to God, and his death, like Jesus' death, will be in accordance with God's will and thereby glorify him (Moloney 1998:556). Furthermore, in the death of Jesus the glory of God is revealed since God is love and love is the laying down of one's life (1 Jn 4:8; 3:16). So now Jesus predicts that Peter also will glorify God by his death (v. 19).

Having spelled out his will for Peter, Jesus calls him to follow him (v. 19). Peter had answered such a call at the outset of the ministry, but now he understands much more about who Jesus is and what following him entails. He has also received a commission from the Lord for leadership in the community. So this is a call to recommit himself. Just as this Gospel shows that faith must be exercised in the face of each new revelation, so one's commitment to Jesus must be renewed as one learns more of Christ and his call.

Jesus has been teaching Peter many lessons in this encounter on the beach, but in what follows it is clear that Peter has more to learn. Peter has had his attention fixed on Jesus ever since the Beloved Disciple told him the person on the beach was Jesus, but now he takes his eyes off Jesus and looks at the Beloved Disciple, who is following (v. 20). Apparently Jesus and Peter have had this conversation while walking along the beach. The NIV says the Beloved Disciple was following them, but the word them is not in the text. The NIV thus obscures the connection, for right after Jesus commands Peter to follow him we hear of one who is following. The Beloved Disciple is identified as the one who leaned against Jesus and asked who would betray him (v. 20; 13:25). This note recalls that first explicit reference to the Beloved Disciple in the Gospel and the setting in which Jesus demonstrated his love and servanthood, key characteristics about which he has just been speaking to Peter. It also recalls the insight Jesus granted to the Beloved Disciple. Peter now tries to assume this same role and asks for insight regarding his friend (v. 21).

In response Jesus speaks strong words to Peter. Peter's old habit of lapsing into error right after experiencing truth is still present (cf. Mt 16:16, 22-23 par. Mk 8:29, 33). He is sure of the Lord's knowledge (cf. v. 17), but he has not learned what submission to his will entails (vv. 18-19). Jesus repeats his call: If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me (v. 22). Jesus is indeed Lord, and his will shall be accomplished in the Beloved Disciple's life, but that is none of Peter's business. Peter can trust Jesus with the life of his friend.

Jesus' statement about the Beloved Disciple, like that about Peter (v. 18), is rather obscure. It includes a clear reference to Jesus' personal return, but what does it mean for the Beloved Disciple to remain (menein)? The NIV interprets it to mean remain alive, and certainly this is how the later disciples, the brothers (v. 23), took it. But since it is the word used for indwelling Christ, as in the image of the vine and the branches (15:4-7), a spiritual sense could be involved. John distinguishes carefully between what Jesus actually said and how it was interpreted (v. 23). Such lack of attention to the precise words of God has been a source of difficulty ever since the Garden of Eden (Gen 2:16-17; 3:1-5, 13). This misunderstanding highlights the need for the instruction of the Paraclete (14:26).

It is usually assumed that this correction (v. 23) implies that the Beloved Disciple has in fact died or is very near death. Such may be the case, but the text does not say as much. The Beloved Disciple could still be in the prime of life, and here he is simply trying to squelch an error he knows to be floating around among the disciples. Jesus' will is the crucial factor, whatever remain might mean.

A number of scholars think there is a rivalry between the Beloved Disciple and Peter, but this final chapter shows them to be friends of one another and to both have special roles in the community. Peter will be a shepherd, and the Beloved Disciple is able to discern the Lord and receive insight into his life and thought. Accordingly, the conclusion will focus on the Beloved Disciple as witness.

Later Disciples Bear Witness to the Beloved Disciple's Witness (21:24-25)

The reference to the Beloved Disciple (vv. 20-23) leads right into an identification of him as the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down (v. 24). As the author of this Gospel, the Beloved Disciple fulfills Jesus' commission to those who were with him to be witnesses to him (15:27). The word wrote does not necessarily mean John actually did the writing. Indeed, one tradition of the church names his scribe as Prochorus. Or perhaps there were a number of disciples involved. But wrote does mean the Beloved Disciple is at least directly responsible for what was written, just as Pilate was responsible for the title on the cross (19:22). This Gospel claims to be an eyewitness account.

Next is an attestation to this witness: We know that his testimony is true (v. 24). Some think this is the Beloved Disciple bearing witness to himself, but the editorial "we" is followed by a first-person plural pronoun (cf. 3:11; 1 Jn 1:2, 4), not a third-person singular as here (his). So this is the testimony of John's disciples, probably the leaders within the churches or at least those who have helped with the production of the Gospel. It is not clear on what grounds they bear witness. Were some of them also eyewitnesses who can certify the accuracy of the information, or are they testifying that the Spirit has confirmed to them the truth of what John has said (cf. 1 Jn 2:27)? If it is the latter sense, then we today can join our testimony to theirs and to that of Christian brothers and sisters throughout the ages who have found the truth of this Gospel confirmed by the living Jesus through the Spirit.

This Gospel, which is so full of cryptic sayings and deeds, ends with one last enigma. After the we of verse 24, who is this I in verse 25? Are these the words of a further redactor, beyond the work of the disciples in view in verse 24? Or is this first-person singular pronoun merely part of the hyperbole (Brown 1970:1129)? Or is this the Beloved Disciple himself, who now "feels free to make an overt self-reference" (Carson 1991:686)? Or is this neither the Beloved Disciple himself nor the disciples who have helped with the Gospel but the scribe who has taken it down (cf. Rom 16:22, Michaels 1989:364)? It would be fitting for a scribe to conclude with a reference to all the books that would be written! One's view of the identity of this person will be determined in large part by how one thinks the Gospel came to be produced. For my own part, the last option mentioned is attractive, but there can be no certainty on this matter.

This final voice adds one last witness to the greatness of Jesus. Such hyperbole may be a literary convention (Talbert 1992:264; Moloney 1998:562), but in this case it is quite literally true, for there is no limit to the riches that are in Christ Jesus. Jesus is the very presence of God come into our midst. All authority has been given to him, and judgment is in his hands. He is quite strict regarding obedience, but he is full of mercy. He has revealed the Father, overcome the prince of this world and taken away the sin of the world. He also washed his disciples' feet and served them breakfast. No human being has ever dreamed up such a God--we have a hard enough time remaining true to the witness he has left us through his servants, in particular, through John, the Beloved Disciple.