Presentation on theme: "John’s passion narrative – third lecture on John “Glorification” -- and identification of Father and Son, the Son and his followers."— Presentation transcript:
John’s passion narrative – third lecture on John “Glorification” -- and identification of Father and Son, the Son and his followers
John’s “last supper” discourse Chapters 13 to 17 tell a different story from Synoptics. Not a Passover meal, and no giving of bread and wine as body and blood. Instead the washing of feet – reversal of master/servant relation. A central theme of the discourse is identification of disciples and Jesus, Jesus and the Father. It is not “historical” in the sense the Synoptics mean to be historical. No one took dictation. So how does John know this is what Jesus said? By the presumed identification of the writer with Jesus. Jesus speaks out of time into the present of John’s world. (What I mean by “channeling.”) The Father speaks through Jesus > Jesus will speak through disciples > these disciples (therefore Jesus) speak through this later disciple > this disciple speaks to the reader. See especially 16: 12-15.
Last supper discourse – how are we to understand it? For John, this is what Jesus really said, who he really was. History is less important than this mystic process of identification. Jesus, identified with the Father, identifies with disciples, who are identified with the writer. 14: 7, 9, 19-20; 15: 4-5, 12; 16: 27-28; 17: 10-11, 20-23. So John doesn’t want us to quibble about mere historical fact. He’s speaking out of time as well: at the end (17: 20-21) “I ask not only on behalf of these but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one.” “Glorification” suggests a transcending of history, just as it means a transcending of suffering, pain, death. John’s gospel is not gnostic (in sense that it depends on gnosis, knowledge), but similarly depends on a state of consciousness and a bypassing of the merely historical. This Jesus may sound a bit like the mystical teacher of Thomas, even though his message is different.
John’s passion narrative Many of the details of the narrative of Jesus’ death are the same in John as in the Synoptics. But his narrative makes its meaning quite different. Mark tells a story of suffering, grief, abandonment by God, and a radical need to find the Jesus who is not in the empty tomb. Matthew tells essentially same story as Mark, though with a firm sense of an historical community that comes after. Luke’s story is one of reconciliation, forgiveness, the death of an innocent man who forgives those who kill him, then is raised by God to fulfill the scriptures. By contrast, John’s story is one of fulfillment and “glorification,” passing through death to triumph. Glorification rather than suffering is the central meaning. John 12: 27-28: “Father, glorify your name.” “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.”
Synoptic overlap in John’s passion narrative Anointing as Messiah/anointing for death (from Mark) now transferred to Mary, sister of Lazarus, 12: 3-7. Feet rather than head anointed. Rides a donkey (just one!) into Jerusalem: 12: 12-16. Judas’ betrays, but now “Satan entered into him.” Cutting of the ear of High Priest (Mark) by “one who stood near.” In Luke Jesus heals him. John assigns the cutting to Simon Peter and names the servant, “Malchus.” Purple robe, crown of thorns, mockery of the Roman soldiers, as in Mark 15:16-20. (Pro-Roman Luke omits this.) Crucified “with two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them.” (Luke gives repentance of one.) Inscription on cross. But John adds the objection of the High Priests (plural!), and Pilate’s “what I’ve written, I’ve written.”
Some details unique to John Only John has Jesus being taken first to Annas, former high priest, who had been deposed by Romans; he was the powerful father of four high priests, father-in-law of another. Only John has another disciple with Peter. John expands the role of Pilate. Only John has Jesus distinguish earthly and heavenly kingdoms here (18: 35-38). Pilate’s famous (postmodern?) question: “What is truth?” (What should the reader remember?) Only John has chief priests (still plural!) object to Pilate’s sign – in “Hebrew,” Greek, Latin for the whole Med. world. The seamless cloak (replacement quotation of psalm 22?). Only John has Mary, her sister, Mary Magdalene, and “beloved disciple” at cross.
Voluntary submission to betrayal and arrest Contrary to Synoptic tradition, arrest, crucifixion take place before Passover (Jesus crucified on eve of Passover). Notice that Jesus essentially gives permission to Judas to hand him over (13: 26-27) And at the arrest, Jesus is in control of his arrest (18: 4-11). The “I am he” of v. 5 is actually, again, “I am” in Greek, which recalls the other “I ams” – truth, way, living water, good shepherd, vine, “before Abraham” etc. At the cutting of the ear of Malchus, Jesus rebukes Peter – “Am I not to drink the cup... ?” Jesus carries his cross “by himself” – no Simon of Cyrene. No despair, no crying out. Instead, “it is finished,” that is, completed, fulfilled. Who’s in control in this crucifixion?
Why John’s different chronology in regard to Passover? Recall John the Baptist’s “Here is the Lamb of God” (1: 29). (Unique to this gospel.) Now connected to 19: 31-37. “Blood and water” from the side of crucifixion victim – perhaps not surprising? But for John the significance lies in Exodus 12: 46: “you shall not break any of its bones.” This is the preparation day for Passover, the day the lambs were slaughtered. So Jesus becomes the Passover lamb, with all this means. Passover victim to be eaten completely. What to make of the water, blood? How many symbols in John connect to these images? So one must “eat” this Passover lamb? How? Identification and unification that had been part of last supper discourse?
Resurrection appearances in John First to Mary Magdalen, testifying to her significance for John’s community. Then to disciples, minus Thomas: “if you forgive the sins of any...” (20: 22-23). Then to Thomas, the rebuke of whom applies to the late first-century reader of John: “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe” (20: 29). Conclusion of 20: 30-31. Then more resurrection appearances: to Peter and others (overlap with Luke?) Maybe to “correct” emphasis on beloved disciple and return prominence to Peter? Then prophecies of deaths of disciples. And finally the infinity of Jesus’ deeds – and a second conclusion.
What to make of John’s themes? The various “signs” from the first half of the gospel. Who else is “the man born blind” who is expelled from synagogue, and comes to see? (9: 35-38). Who else is Lazarus? Jesus had said, "Loose him and let him go“ – again fraught with significance for reader? Early Christians painted this scene on tombs. Lots of symbolic drinking and eating in this gospel: “Best wine” saved for last, the “living water at Samaritan well, the multiplied bread for the 5000, the injunction to eat Jesus’ body, drink his blood. Finally the sacrificial lamb of Passover. How can one “eat” this lamb? The idea of identification of final discourse: Father > Jesus > disciples > reader. The cruelest form of death becomes glorification.
The trans-historical character of John The radical difference of this gospel from Synoptic tradition. And its trans-historical character. Does John want us to worry about this? For John: perhaps not so much that Synoptics got it wrong, but they didn’t see enough. They didn’t see in this mystical way. “Channeling” the essential sense of what Jesus is, what he means. The only ethical injunction in John: “love one another as I have loved you.” So, identification and paradoxical glorification.
Eschatology: the final exam Identifications (of another sort): be clear about the essential nature of the texts we’ve read, their narrative differences from one another. Be able to identify scenes or moments from texts. Be able to identify the particular (and different) ways Jesus is portrayed, understood in the texts. Note the differences among the words of Jesus on the cross – and what they mean in terms of the individual gospels. And finally, an essay, where again the emphasis is likely to be on differences among texts, differences in narrative character, difference in the approach to the reader.