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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Day 43 (Jesus, is that You?)

[Reaction to May 10-12 readings in the One Year Bible]

I knew that John's gospel differed from the synoptic gospels in its layout. I didn't realize that Jesus' personality would come across so differently. In John, Jesus makes frequent declarations of who he is. Consider this passage:
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."

From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
So, first off, John is jarring because the bad guys are not the Pharisees or teachers of the law, but "the Jews." Next, what a gruesome defense of communion. It is not surprising that he lost some followers.

In the synoptics, its seems to me that this ministry is thrust upon Jesus. He has the truth and has to let it out. There is a journey of the country prophet who realizes what he has is too big to keep to himself. Not so in John. Here Jesus is angrier than before. He is more direct than before. His theology is fully formed.

I wonder if others notice this. It all makes this Gospel's popularity among Christian fundamentalists easy to understand.

3 comments:

Matt Dick said...

"...Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever."

So what to make of this? Their forefathers died but they will live forever?

This strikes me as saying explicitly that Moses and his followers will not live forever in the same sense that these modern Christians will. That seems to be a big statement of theology.

refete

JimII said...

Yeah. When I read John it feels intensly antisemetic. This particularly passage, seems more like a statement of fact rather than a condemnation--the bread that God gave them in the form of manna only temporarily stayed the effects of death; the bread God give you in the form of Christ's body permanently prevents death.

Of everything I have read so far, reading John from the beginning has been the most striking to me. It seems to be setting out the new tradition, and distinctly non-Jewish movement, more so than the other Gospels. I guess I knew that before, but it is different to read it. Also, I'm pretty sure I have read it before, but perhaps not as carefully, or not so soon after reading the others. I don't know.

Matt Dick said...

...the bread that God gave them in the form of manna only temporarily stayed the effects of death; the bread God give you in the form of Christ's body permanently prevents death.

Well exactly. It's hard to read this and not decide that John was trying to burn bridges... look you're either a Christian going to heaven or your a Jew who's as doomed as everyone else.

Like you, John was always clearly establishing a break with the past, but I had never read it as quite so damning for outsiders, either. It's not a tolerant faith that John envisions.

entino