You will find and introduction and outline to John, here
A prayer from the Book of Common Worship to use before you read.
God, source of all light, by your Word you give light to the soul. Pour out upon us the spirit of wisdom and understanding that, being taught by you in Holy Scripture, our hearts and minds may be opened to know the things that pertain to life and holiness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
I. Book of Signs chapter 1-12
A. The Prelude to Jesus’ Ministry 1:1-51
B. “The Greater Things”: Jesus’ Words and Works 2:1-5:47
a. Cana 2:1-12
b. The Cleansing of the Temple 2:13-22
c. The discussion with Nicodemus 2:23-3:21 Nicodemus is presented ambivalently. He seeks Jesus which is good, but he comes at night. Night in John’s gospel often represents separation from God Remember that at the end of chapter 2 Jesus has not place much stock in faith that is based on signs alone. Why do you think Jesus responds to Nicodemus as he does in verse 3? The Greek word anothen in verse 3 can mean either “again” or “from above”. One meaning evokes time, the other place. There is no single English word that means exactly what anothen means. For English speakers, the ambiguity that is unavoidably present in Greek is missing in English. It is helpful if you can keep both meanings in mind as you read these verses. Verse 8 the Greek word pneuma can mean wind, breath, spirit. The “you” in verses 11 and 12 are plural ( they were singular prior to this). Verse 13 Others in Jewish tradition ascended to heaven, (Enoch, Elijah, Moses) but no one other than Jesus ascended and descended. Verse 14 refers to an act of Moses found in Numbers 21:4-9. The word hypsoo means both “lift up” and “exalt”. Once again we need to keep both meanings in mind.
“The overlap of crucifixion and exaltation conveyed by v. 14 is crucial to Johannine soteriology, because the Fourth Evangelist understands Jesus’ crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension as one continuous event. Verse 14 also contains a key to the theological grounding of the Evangelist’s attraction to irony; the cross as humiliation is actually exaltation. (O’Day, 552)
“eternal life” doesn’t simply mean endless life after death. It also describes a way of life that is lived in the unending presence of God. Eternal life isn’t a future state but is a present reality for believers.
Notice that judgement is also spoken of as present reality. The Incarnation is a decision point for the world.
Is the story of Jesus and Nicodemus about more than the current use of the phrase “born again”? If so, what?
d. The second appearance of John the Baptist 3:22-36: Verse 25, the text is unclear what the point of contention was. Purification can refer to ceremonial washing (as the NIV translates). The friend of the bridegroom had important responsibilities but was always secondary to the bridegroom. Additionally in Scripture, Israel is spoken of as the bride of God (Isa 61:10; Jer 2:2; Hosea 1-2). What else might John be saying about Jesus?
e. Jesus and the Woman of Samaria 4:1-42: Compare this story to the story of Nicodemus- time of day, social status (who is named, who isn’t), who “gets” it and understands who Jesus is.
Samaritans are “outsiders”. Jews and Samaritans had a long history of troubles (see 2 Kings 17) but one of the main problems was that Samaritans worshiped at Mt. Gerizim and claimed this was the proper place to worship God. That shrine was destroyed by Jewish troops in 128 BCE, but the enmity continued. Recall the conventions of the times as you read about Jesus speaking with a woman from an enemy people. Some (but not all) Jewish teachers did not publicly speak with women. Jews did not associate with Samaritans. Recall the Old Testament stories of Elijah and the widow of Sidon (1 Kings 17:10-11) and the scenes between men and women at a well (Gen 24:10-61; Gen 29:1-20; Exod 2:15B-21).
Verse 10, “living water” again a double meaning, either fresh, running water (i.e. spring water) or life giving water. Notice how the woman and Jesus talk past each other initially. ( like Nicodemus…) Verse 16-18 Often these verses are interpreted to imply the woman was immoral. Jesus does not say that. Rather this shows Jesus” insight into her life (recall Nathaniel 1:47-49). Verse 26 The “I am he” that is part of “I who speak to you am he” or “I am he, the one who is speaking to you”, in Greek does not have the “he”. It is “I am”. Again a phrase with a double meaning for the original Greek speaking audience. Verse 28, is there a symbolic message in the woman leaving the empty water jars with Jesus?. Verse 29 “come and see” where was that phrase last used? (1:37-39,46). Verse 31-38 now “food” is misunderstood Verses 39-42 The Samaritan woman has testified effectively about Jesus to her townspeople. Just as with John the Baptist, the woman’s testimony is diminished as the people encounter Jesus. Look what the Samaritans say about Jesus in verse 42!
How do the stories of Nicodemus and the woman at the well interpret each other? How are they similar? How are they different?
f. Healing of an Official’s son 4:43-54: The second sign. The first healing in John’s gospel. We do not know if the official was a Gentile or a Jew. Because he lived in Capernaum and his job, he may have been Gentile. Verse 48 “you” is plural. As in the first miracle in Cana, Jesus does not immediately do what is asked. Why do you think this is?
g. Healing at Bethzatha and Discussion 5:1-47:
a. Healing and aftermath 5:1-18: Jesus initiates this miracle, the affected man does not ask Jesus for help. There is no expression of faith by the affected man. Verse 9 gives the story’s surprise, the healing happened on the Sabbath. Sabbath observance was on of the marks of covenant membership, along with circumcision and food laws. Carrying things outside of one’s home on the Sabbath was prohibited (Jer 17:21-22). In later Jewish tradition healing of life-threatening conditions was allowed on the Sabbath but not the healing of chronic illnesses which could be healed before or after the Sabbath. Verse 14, what is Jesus talking about? He is not referring to what has just happened, but seems to be talking about what the man’s response to being healed should be. In verse 15 is the man turning Jesus in to the authorities or is he proclaiming who has made him well? Verse 17 Jesus tells who he is by speaking about his relationship to his father.
b. Discourse by Jesus 5:19-47 Verses 19-30 Jesus explains the relationship between Father and Son. Notice the slim vocabulary and how particular words are repeated. This is not a linear argument but a web of ideas and concepts. Jewish tradition understood that giving life and judgment were two works of God that continued even on the Sabbath. Verses 31-40 the discussion of witnesses suggests and foreshadows the trial to come. Who are Jesus’ witnesses?
C. Jesus’ Words and Works: Conflict and Opposition Grow 6:1-10:42
a. Feeding of the Five Thousand and Bread Discourse 6:1-71
verses 1-15 The Feeding of the Five Thousand: This is the only miracle story which all four gospels record. Verse 4 this Passover Jesus does not go to Jerusalem. What might John mean by having a crowd go to see Jesus rather than going to Jerusalem? What echoes of the Exodus are present in the story which follows? Verse 6 This miracle is (again) initiated by Jesus. Again what Jesus means by his statement is misunderstood. Compare what Jesus says in verse 12 with the story of the Manna in Exodus 16 (esp verse 19). Verse 14-15 again, Jesus knows what others are thinking.
verses 16-24 Jesus walks on Water: Verse 20, “It is I; do not be afraid” can also be translated as “I am: do not be afraid”. Remember “I am” is the divine name given to Moses. “Do not be afraid” is what God and divine messengers tell people. In John’s telling of this miracle, the storm is not stilled but the disciples are miraculously delivered. See Job 9:8 LXX, Isa 43:2, 16; Psalm 77:19; 107:23-32.
What do these two miracle stories tell us about Jesus? How does each story interpret the other?
verses 25-34 Dialogue between Jesus and the Crowd:Verse 26 Jesus, again, knows the motives of others. Notice also how, again, Jesus is talking about one thing and the people misunderstand. Why do you think John keeps telling the story this way? Notice also, again, the connections to the Exodus.
verses 35-42 Jesus’ First Discourse and the Crowd’s response: “I am” again. What does this discourse have to do with John the Baptist’s declaration about Jesus, Nicodemus, the woman at the well and the feeding of the five thousand? The verb “grumble” in verse 41 echoes, again, the Exodus story. “Grumble” is the word used in the Septuagint to describe the Israelites’ complaints in the wilderness.
verses 43-52 Jesus’ Second Discourse and the Crowd’s response: God’s role and initiative and humanities response. verse 49, the Exodus, again. We read Jesus’ words eucharistically but imagine how difficult and odd his words were for the crowd. The question remains, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
verses 53-59 Jesus’ Third Discourse: Commentators suggest that now the main audience is not the audience in the story but rather readers in John’s time, and of course, us. Do you think John is talking to us? And if so, what do you think John is telling us about the Lord’s Supper?
Verses 60-71: Conclusion: Jesus and his disciples: More “grumbling”. Jesus, again, knows that people think and believe. Verse 68-69 Peter’s confession.
b. Jesus at the Feast of Tabernacles 7:1-52 Verses 1-13 Jesus goes to Jerusalem. The Feast of the Tabernacles (Festival of Booths) was originally a fall harvest festival which came to be identified with Israel’s journey in the wilderness after the Exodus. It was a festival that celebrated God’s graciousness to Israel. It was one of the three festivals where people traveled to Jerusalem. Jesus response to his brothers echoes his earlier response to his mother. As with the first miracle at Cana, Jesus acts on the request in his own way and in his own time. What do these stories say about Jesus and about our expectations?
verses 14-36: Words of Conflict: Jesus’ Teaching and Response Jesus teaches in the middle of this large festival in the Temple, Israel’s more important, sacred place. What is Jesus answer to the question of verse 15? Verse 21 Jesus “one work/miracle” is the healing of 5:1-18. This is the one miracle, according to John, that Jesus did in Jerusalem and Jesus is now engaging the people in Jerusalem. Verse 23 Jesus argues from lesser to greater. Verse 27 reflects a belief that the Messiah was hiding somewhere and would reveal himself in the last days. Where Jesus was born is not really where Jesus is from. Again a discussion on two levels.
verses 37-52 Words of Conflict: Jesus’ Teaching and Response: Now it is the last day of the Festival. “[O]ne of the central rites of the Tabernacles celebration was the water-libation, during which the priest circles the altar with freshly drawn water.” (O’Day, 620) Verse 42 reflects a popular thought that the Messiah would be from Bethlehem. This seems to be a conflict with verse 27, however there was not a uniform set of expectations about the Messiah. Both views were believed by people. Why do you think John mentions these two views in the same section of Scripture? What do you think about the temple guards statement in verse 46? In verse 50, Nicodemus returns. Again, Jesus origins are a source of controversy and confusion. Notice all the conflict in this chapter.
Read More About It
Carter, Warren John: Storyteller, Interpreter, Evangelist, (Peabody, MA:Hendrickson Publishers) 2006.
Johnson, Luke Timothy, The Writings of the New Testament: An Interpretation, rev. ed. (Minneapolis:Fortress Press) 1999. Chapter 24 “The Gospel of John”
Miller, Donald G. and Bruce M. Metzger “The Gospel According to John” in The New Oxford Annotated Bible, Bruce M. Metzger, Roland E. Murphy eds. (New York: Oxford University Press) 1994.
O’Day, Gail R. “The Gospel of John” in The New Interpreter’s Bible Volume IX, Leander Kirk,eds. (Nashville: Abingdon Press) 1995.
Smith, D. Moody “John” in HarperCollins Bible Commentary, rev. ed.James L Mays, ed. (New York: Society of Bible Literature) 2000.