Friday, March 15, 2013

It Is Me, It Is Him

It had been an exciting time. It was the Last Supper Jesus would eat prior to His crucifixion, but it was not the food which was so exciting. Jesus, divinity in the flesh, humbly served His Disciples by washing their feet at the meal. Then, while the Disciples were still marveling at Jesus' leadership by example, Jesus announced that one of the Disciples would betray Him. Depending on which Gospel you read, Jesus revealed that Judas was the treacherous one.

According to John, Judas then immediately left the dinner, and Jesus dropped some heavy knowledge on the rest of the Disciples...

It Is Me, It Is Him
The Gospel of John both beautiful and confusing at times. There are glimpses of brilliance, wrapped up and tangled around logical knots and bizarre statements. In some respects, the Gospel itself is a perfect analogy for Christianity today.

From John 13:31 to John 17:28, Jesus had a dialog with His Disciples, known as the "Farewell Discourse." Its content is almost completely exclusive to John's Gospel. We will take a quick look at that discourse, up to the end of John 14, in this study.

We will start on an odd note with John 13:31-32, which says that, because God is glorified in Jesus, God will glorify Jesus in Himself. Clear? No. Important for the Disciples to know? No. So why is it in there? I do not know, but it sure sounds spiritual and mystical, does it not? ;-)

In John 13:33, Jesus told the Disciples that they cannot go where He is going, only to contradict, or at least clarify, Himself a few verses later.

We see a glimpse of beauty in John 13:34-35, where Jesus commands the Disciples to love one another, which will prove to other people that they are His Disciples. It is a great sentiment, but unfortunately it is infrequently found in the church.

Next, in John 13:36-38, Jesus clarified to Peter that they will go where Jesus is going, but not now, and then prophesied that Peter, despite his enthusiasm to follow Jesus, would disown Jesus three times that same night. Peter's denial is one small point of overlap with the other Gospels, which we may discuss later in a different study.

Trust God, and Jesus (John 14:1). That makes sense. Jesus is going to prepare a place in God's house-of-many-rooms for the Disciples, and then He will come back for them (John 14:2-3). That does not make sense, at least not when you really think about. God made the entire universe, and has already chosen who would be Saved (Mark 13:20), but He waited until the last minute to prepare a place for the Saved? That just seems a little... odd.

On the other hand, what does not seem odd, but rather appears to be well-crafted dialog, in John 14:4 Jesus told them that they knew the way to where He was going. That left a Disciple confused, so Jesus explained that Jesus is the only way to get to God (John 14:5-6).

Now, why would I call that a "crafted" dialog as opposed to a real one? There was no reason for Jesus to say that the Disciples knew the way, when He had just told them that He was coming back to bring them there (John 14:3). It is about the equivalent of an airline pilot telling you that you know the way to Denver, because you know the pilot who is flying the plane there. Plus, if the Disciples had not asked about it, then that all-important "truth," that people can only get to God through Jesus, would not have been revealed. This suggests someone writing a dialog, someone who is deliberately choosing the path of discussion to get their message out. That requires knowledge, or control of how participants would react. So either it is Jesus' omniscience at work here, or the work of an author who is not subtle enough at his craft to cloak his message manipulation.

With that subject out of the way, what comes next is likely another crafted conversation, but let us focus on the content here in John 14:7-11. There, Jesus explained that the Disciples have seen God, the Father, because the Father is in Jesus and Jesus is in the Father. Of course, this is in contradiction to John 1:18 and John 6:46, both of which claim that nobody has seen the Father except for Jesus, with the latter verse being Jesus' own words.

Then we come to some more contradictory verses, but these are more contradictory to real life as opposed to Bible verses. In John 14:12-14, Jesus tells His followers that they will be able to work even greater miracles than what Jesus had done, and that Jesus would do anything that they ask Him to do. Today we have a wealth of unanswered prayers and a plentiful lack of miracles which prove Jesus' words to be untrue. Biblically speaking, while there are accounts in Acts of the Disciples working some miracles, they fall short of everything Jesus did, and in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, Paul prayed for Jesus to do something for him, but Jesus rejected his request.

John 14:15-20 speaks of how Jesus would prompt God to send them the Holy Spirit, which will be with them forever! Not only that, the Holy Spirit will help them recognize that Jesus is in God, that they are in Jesus, and that Jesus is in them. It is kind of like one of those Russian nesting dolls combined with a Möbius strip. ;-)

John 14:21 is pretty straightforward: If you love Jesus, you will obey His commands. However, as we will discuss in a moment, His commands are really God's commands, so that should mean obeying everything that God had commanded as well.

In John 14:22-24, a Disciple asked Jesus why He did not intend to show Himself to everyone in the world. That is a great question, because, presumably, if more people saw Jesus, they would believe. Yet Jesus' answer appears to suggest otherwise; stating that those who love Him will obey Him, but those who do not love Him will not obey. While it is difficult to know for sure with such an indirect answer, Jesus appears to be saying "I will not waste my time going throughout all of the world, because that will not really change whether or not people will follow me," which is sort of contradictory to the message found in Parable of the Lost Sheep (Matthew 18:10-14, Luke 15:1-7) where Jesus described a willingness to search all over for the lost souls.

John 14:24 ended with a rather interesting sentence:
"These words you hear are not My own; they belong to the Father who sent Me." NIV
This is not really news. If you have been reading along in John's Gospel, you would know that (allegedly) everything that Jesus said or did was instructed by God, the Father, making Jesus essentially just a vessel for the words and actions of God (John 6:38, John 7:16, John 8:28, John 8:42, John 14:10). So, as mentioned above, when Jesus spoke about obeying His commands, He is inherently referring to obeying what God commanded, which should also mean obeying God's Law from the Old Testament. That message seems to be lost in Christianity.

Let us wrap this up this study in the way that may have Jesus wrapped up this "Farewell Discourse." In John 14:25-31, Jesus reminded the Disciples that they will get the Holy Spirit, wished them peace, reminded them that He is going away for there benefit and that his time with them was short. And verse 14:31 ends with:
"Come now, let us leave." NIV
Summarizing what had just been said and then ending on this call to action implies the end of the discourse, and yet there are three more chapters of Jesus speaking before any action is taken. Some scholars have suggested that this content is a later insertion by another author or editor. That may be the case, but in reviewing the content of those chapters, to me it does not seem any more strange or unworthy than anything else we have already seen in John! :-)


  1. Listening to biblical characters talk about Jesus and the father being the same and not the same is like listening to Obi Wan talk about Vader and Anakin.

    "So what I told you was true, from a certain point of view."

  2. Ha! Yeah, Grundy, that's a good point! :-)

  3. "It is kind of like one of those Russian nesting dolls combined with a Möbius strip"

    Russian nesting Klein bottles? Awesome!

    Also I like your point in relation to the parable of the lost sheep. It shows that even for really important topics, the bible is willing contradict itself.

  4. Thanks Hausdorff! I had to look up the Klein bottles... those are pretty cool!

    It is amazing how much the Bible contradicts itself. But that also explains why so many people feel that their particular views are backed by the Bible... they are! ;-)

  5. Yup, big book of multiple choice :) You can justify pretty much anything. For some reason though, people don't seem too worried that the opposite of their position is also in there.

    Yeah, klein bottles are pretty cool. I used to have a blown glass one, some of my students asked me if it was a bong :)