JOHN 5-12—Seven signs, connected to seven “I Am” statements give structure to John’s Gospel.
“I Am”–The Light of the World; the Good Shepherd; The Door to the Sheepfold; the Bread of Life; The Way, the Truth and the Life; Before Abraham was, I Am; the Resurrection and the Life; The simple phrase, “I Am,” refers us back to God’s self-revelation to Moses from the burning bush: “Tell them that I Am has sent you.”

JESUS AND THE NATIONS: While inter-Jewish disputes over Jesus figure greatly in this gospel, (healing on the Sabbath, claiming to be one with God the Father, being from Galilee, etc.) there is still a missionary bent to John. It is evident from the beginning, with Jesus named, “the light that enlightens everyone who comes into the world.” It resurfaces when Jesus says, “I have other sheep that are not of this fold (Jn 10)” by which is not meant people of other religions (as I so often hear) but of other nations who will look to him as their Good Shepherd. More comes to light after the determination of Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin to kill Jesus, oddly enough, when John asserts that Caiaphas’ threat contained a prophetic element, by the Holy Spirit, to the effect that Jesus would die not only for the nation but for all of God’s dispersed people (11:52). Things come to a head when, in Jerusalem during his last week, Greeks (Jews from Greece or Greek converts to Judaism?) wish to see him (ch. 12). This confirms to Jesus that it is now his time to be “glorified” (12: 23 ff). His “glorification,” or death on a cross, will “draw all people to him.”

JESUS AND THE WOMAN TAKEN IN ADULTERY (Jn 8: 1-11): This passage is not found in the oldest MSS of John, and interrupts the flow of discussion between chapters 7 and 8. And yet it is part of the version that is canonized, and must have been part of the body of apostolic and oral “literature” in the early church that became the four canonical gospels. It rings so true to the Jesus we know from these gospels. Such a Jesus would never have emerged from either the Gnostic, Hellenistic schools of early Christianities, nor from the Ebionitic (Judaizing, legalistic) options, to rein him back into Phariseeism, the two main First-and Second Century alternatives to the Pauline and apostolic gospel. It also fits superbly with John’s opening statement, that “the law came through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (1:17).” The law permitted divorce and called for the death penalty for things like adultery, “because of the hardness of your hearts (Mk. 10:5).” But Jesus demonstrates grace when he says, “Neither do I condemn you,” (though he roundly condemned adultery) and truth when he 1) exposed the sinful histories of all the would-be executioners; and 2) told the woman to “go and sin no more.” Here we see Jesus’ vision of grace and truth superbly portrayed.

PSALM 98 reveals features of ancient Israelite worship in the Tabernacle and/or the Temple, that it featured choirs, drums, trumpets and stringed instruments. Worship is worthy of every effort to make it special, because the God so worshiped is so worthy. Again, there are universal elements to this call to worship, going out to the pagan nations as well as to all creation. That makes of us not only stewards of creation, but, effectively, priests.

PSALM 99 contains a refrain from a litany, “He is holy,” that opens a window into the worship of ancient Israel. The holiness of God is tied to and revealed by justice, equity, pardon and the laws of consequences, and not just by experiences of awe, wonder and holy fear, what some call, “the numinous.” That God is to be worshiped “on his holy mountain,” and from Zion, reveals this to be most likely a litany from the Temple, after the time of King David.

PSALM 100 reads and sounds like a call to worship. The parallelism, in verse 5, placing God’s eternal great love and everlasting faithfulness together, tells us that God’s quality of covenant faithfulness is all about a great love beyond our ability to comprehend or calculate.


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