The gospel of John might seem the most “opaque” of the four gospels. We heard the opening verses in our worship service on Sunday, April 15: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
I read that the gospel which we attribute to “John” was likely written in the last years of the first century, AD. John may have even known of and read the earlier gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.
John’s purpose is to “prove” Jesus’ deity, that Jesus was, indeed, the son of the “true God” …
Students and scholars of the Bible believe that John was writing for the Greeks and the Jews alike. He uses words and phrases (“the Word” and “the Bread of Life” ) which had many-layered meanings for both Jews and Greeks of the time – words and phrases which might seem puzzling to us.
Some of our most familiar and beloved references to Jesus are in John: “For God so loved the world … “, “the good shepherd”, “the bread of life”, “the resurrection and the life”, “the way, the truth and the life”.
In John, Jesus turns water into fine wine, feeds “the 5,000”, walks on water, and raises his friend Lazarus from the dead! WOW! John’s message: “even DEATH is no match for the Son of God!” There is a GREAT DEAL to share and to understand in the book of John.
On Sunday, however, I will focus on the very touching account of Jesus’ exchange with his bewildered disciples as they gradually came to understand that Jesus would leave them – and not in glory! Why can’t they come with him? Indeed, what would become of them? These men had left everything to follow Jesus! John places this exchange as a sustained time with his disciples on the occasion of what we have come to call the Last Supper.
Jesus seeks to reassure them and implores them, “Let not your hearts be troubled … In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places; I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there you may be also,” and later, in verse 18, “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you”.
We know from other Biblical texts that the disciples sometimes quarreled among themselves; “who is the greatest … ?” Indeed, on good days, they may have imagined a glorious future for themselves as allies and followers of Jesus when Jesus, as “the promised Messiah”, actually came to earthly power – to banish the Romans from their homeland, to bring a reign of love and enlightenment and, yes, of triumphant glory!
Indeed, their experience of Jesus’ remarkable – even royal – procession into Jerusalem for the festival of Pesach was fresh! It must have been thrilling! Throngs of followers and other interested or curious people lined the road waving branches and welcoming Jesus!
When it became clear that triumphant glory would not be Jesus’ destiny, nor of their new faith movement, the disciples may very well have felt frightened, betrayed, abandoned, un-appreciated, or forgotten by Jesus in these last dark days of his life.
On Sunday, I will carry these familiar “human feelings” to the ordinary by sharing a children’s storybook which tells of a scattered, injured, and aggrieved community being able to finally come home.