Biblical Morality 43: John

Hey Sarn,

Glad to see another essay. I'll have to respond later. However, did you not read Mark and Luke? Or did you just not post anything about them?
SarnDuro said:
Here we get to the crux of the matter. Jesus, being the son of God, would be a stranger to his brothers, and they are not the sons of God. Yet the cited verse 9 (in John) makes it clear exactly why the author is a stranger to his brothers. It is because of his faith and zeal, not because he is God’s son. What is the reader to make of verses like 6? Would believers be disgraced by something involving a central figure, like the son of God?
I think you nailed it. He's saying don't be afaid of speaking truth to power, and calling out evil where you see it. And don't be ashamed of being a christian. In fact, we see many people today who ARE ashamed of being christian due to the anti-christian spin in the media and it's association with hillbillyism.
Perhaps. But this could also be interpreted as showing the importance of community and unity among the faithful.
No. That's new age hippy communist talk.
How then should I read it? It still strikes me as a bit of opportunistic interpretation. Finally, as with a few other prophecies, one can hardly cite the fulfillment of prophesy as a true sign of anything when the person fulfilling it knows what it is and easily has the means to carry it out.
Similar to the jews reconquista of Israel as a sign of prophecy?
Anyone could attack the moneychangers and then cite Psalms to show that his zeal was foreordained.

One of the other main prophesies in John comes ultimately from Isaiah, that fountain of vague prophecies that’s made so many appearances. In this case, however, one of the cited chapters and verse is clearly one in which Isaiah himself is doing the talking. The situation concerns the Jews’ continuing lack of belief in Jesus. 12:38 explains that, ‘This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet: “Lord, who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”’ This citation is from Isaiah 53:1, a passage that does indeed refer to someone called the servant, and makes up one of the strong claims to the future existence of Jesus. John continues, ‘For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere: “He has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn – and I would heal them.”’ This latter quote is from Isaiah 6:10, and it clearly is Isaiah that is speaking the words. It calls up the recurring question of free will in the Bible. How often has God hardened someone’s heart? At least as far back as the Pharaoh in Exodus, and always so that said people can suffer righteously for the benefit of some other group’s righteousness. In this case, it is the Jews. Again I say that they are simply being set up in the Gospels for a future of persecution. ‘But no-one would say anything publicly about him for fear of the Jews,’ says 7:13.
That's paranoia. You only beleive that because you don't ACTUALLY BELIEVE christ's message, thus saying someone's heart is hard to it means nothing. You're reading this too cynically.
It is interesting to note, however, that John does provide the only practical reason I’ve seen for the Jewish leaders to oppose Jesus so strongly. The priests lament, in 11:48, ‘”If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”’ While it smacks of cowardice, it is a genuine cause for concern. Why would the Romans care, though? In 19:12, ‘From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jews kept shouting, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.”’ Roman politics explains all. As in the other Gospels, however, I find far more description of the Jews as a mindless mob, a band of conniving plotters, and a group seemingly desperate to set themselves up as the killers of Christ.
Yes. They certainly appear to be a pack of craven, deceitful, liars, more interested in their worldy power than the truth.
Enough. How should a Christian behave? Jesus himself gives a good answer, albeit a rather over-arching one. When rebuked for healing people on the Sabbath, he points out that if a child can be circumcised on that day, why should he not heal at that same time? ‘”Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment,”’ he says in 7:24. A fascinating take on one of the best-known biblical quotes is found in 8:7. Before Jesus and many people is brought a woman caught in the act of adultery (a serious offense throughout the Bible). Somehow, for reasons I don’t understand, they thought that asking Jesus his thoughts on the law would be a trap. His response is famous: ‘When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”’ When everyone slowly leaves, Jesus tells her to sin no more and sends her away. I say this is a fascinating take primarily for one reason – the footnotes identify this section of John as being absent from the earliest and most reliable manuscripts. Might it have been added later for reasons unknown? I do note that the accused woman has made no proclamation of faith in him, as do the other people Jesus helps throughout the Gospels. But Jesus is, sometimes, a gentle soul and could easily have mercy on someone who he could see would return to the right path. This side of Jesus can be seen also in chapter 13, in which he washes the feet of his disciples. In 13:15, ‘”I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”’ This is another one of those passages that I find tricky to interpret. Certainly it is more explicit than many. Jesus says flat out that he is providing a specific example of how to behave. The apparent idea is to teach humility. If the servant is no greater than the master, and the master washes the feet of his own followers, what other message than humility is there? Yet, one wonders how literally to take this. The servants are no better than the master? Similar themes have been written in these pages before. In some sense they are true, in that a master holds a higher rank within his own organization, whatever that may be (country, household, etc). Does this passage also not tend to state that servants are intrinsically inferior beings? Is humility promoted side by side with a moral hierarchy based on power or wealth? Could it be interpreted this way, even in honest error?
Wrong interpretation could indeed generate a plethora of wrongness.
The fact is we live in a hierarchical world. I don't think jesus referring to that fact is an ENDORSEMENT per se.
One thing that I’ve noticed before but haven’t quite put my finger on until now concerns Peter and his relationship to Jesus. Peter is, by all accounts, a pious man and completely devoted to Jesus as the son of God. He goes on to become the first pope of the Christian church. Is Peter allowed to lie about knowing Jesus? All four of the Gospels tell the story of how Peter denies knowing Jesus when asked directly about it after Jesus is arrested. Part of the story can be taken to illustrate Jesus’s power, as he predicted Peter’s lie well in advance. 13:38 reads, ‘Then Jesus answered [Peter], “Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the cock crows, you will disown me three times!”’ And Peter does exactly this. The first time is to gain entry to the place where Jesus was taken. Later, in 18:25, ‘As Simon Peter stood warming himself, he was asked, “You are not one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it, saying, “I am not.” One of the high priest’s servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, challenged him, “Didn’t I see you with him in the olive grove?” Again Peter denied it, and at that moment a cock began to crow.’ If we take this story at face value, Jesus’s ability to see into the future seems remarkable. But what of Peter? Judas was also predicted to betray Jesus, and he has been thoroughly condemned by Christian history because of it. Doesn’t Peter betray Jesus by denying him? Doesn’t Jesus say again and again that only someone who knows him can go to heaven? Isn’t fidelity the highest of virtues in the pages of the Bible? From a practical point of view, Peter does no wrong in denying anything. He’s lying more about himself than about Jesus. Still, is this permitted? Is it okay to be a secret Christian? The topic shows up again in 19:38. ‘Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews.’ Setting aside the Jew-baiting, doesn’t this say that a man may publicly deny Jesus? History is a poor guide in answering this question, as martyrs for Christianity are regularly celebrated, but at the same time secret services are encouraged even today in countries where open worship is persecuted.
Again. I don't think it condones denying christ. it's simply an admonition that people lie when they are scared and nobody is perfect. You're really hung up on this "implicit condoning" thing.
There are other confusing aspects to John. Jesus presents several rambling lectures full of confused metaphor and strange logic. One illustrative one runs from 8:34 to 8:41. ‘Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it for ever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”’ Sinners are slaves? I’ll assume this is not meant literally, but it’s a rather tortured analogy.
THis is easy. It's not tortured. Sinners are slaves to their sin. They are controlled by their bad habits. Slaves to the devil maybe?
The son? Who is he setting free? The sinners? Shouldn’t he be trying to welcome people into the house if this is about Jesus and heaven? Continuing, ‘I know you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are ready to kill me, because you have no room for my word. I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you do what you have heard from your father.”’ He is talking to his followers, though apparently not the disciples. Are they ready to kill him? I thought that was the Jews. ‘”Abraham is our father,” they answered. “If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “Then you would do the things Abraham did.”’ Is that how children are? Duplicates of the father?
Not duplicates, but perhaps having the same moral proclivites due to being brouht up in the same or similar relgious tradition. You're going out of you way to make things seem nonsensical.
Even if children should do the things their parents do, it doesn’t follow that they actually do. ‘”As it is, you are determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things You are doing the things your own father does.” “We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.” I guess the first question is about Abraham not doing such things. He was ready to kill his own son. So if the people listening to Jesus consider him the son of God, and they are ready to kill him (as Jesus keeps insisting) then… What? I really don’t know. This is a tortured passage, and typical of several pages worth in John. When Jesus asks, in 8:46, ‘”If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me?”’ What? It would be nice if people could detect truth just by hearing it, but they can’t. ‘”He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”’ God has plenty of ability to speak to non-believers if he chooses to do so. The apparent intended message is that one should be faithful to and trusting in God, and it puts the burden of faith on the follower. It does make one wonder about God’s wishes for the rest of the world. Believers are to spread the faith because God apparently cannot. No one hears him who doesn’t already know him.

Faith, finally, is the dominant theme. It’s always the dominant theme. Believe in Jesus and all will be well. Don’t, and nothing you do in this world will have any effect. ‘”This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.”’ (3:19) Believe in Jesus, or you are already evil. It’s right there. Similarly, if less clearly, is 14:16. ‘”And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor to be with you for ever – the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.”’ Only believers know what the truth is. Only believers know what truth is.

There is actually some discussion in John concerning the matter of evidence and faith. ‘”Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders,” Jesus told him [a royal official], “you will never believe.”’ Jesus states in 4:48. He knows this, but expects very clearly that his followers will believe having see no evidence whatsoever. After Jesus rose from the dead after his crucifixion, one of his disciples hears of it but does not believe it. ‘But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.”’ Thomas (of doubting Thomas fame) says in 20:25. Jesus does later appear and proves himself to Thomas. From 20:29, ‘Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”’ Why is this? Why is this the message that Christians are expected to follow? I know what my atheist answer is, but what is the Christian answer? How can we read twelve hundred pages of failure to believe in a God not readily visible and still not understand that it is normal to be skeptical?

Another mention of free will and perhaps predestination comes in chapter 6. As some disciples leave Jesus, burdened by the difficulty of his teachings, Jesus speaks to then. Verse 61 begins his words. ‘”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.”’ This is similar to some of the parables in earlier Gospels, particularly the Parable of the Sower, in which people are as seeds, cast about the ground, and landing by chance either in a good place to grow or not. How is the Christian supposed to treat the person who is incapable, by God’s own decision, of accepting Jesus?

What should be my final thoughts on Jesus as he makes, as far as I know, his last appearance in the pages of the Bible? His own words seem fitting to tell me the kind of son of God he is. From 15:23, ‘”He who hates me hates my Father as well. If I had not done among them what no-one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen these miracles, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’”’ From 17:1, ‘”Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.”’ From 17:9, ‘”I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours.”’ From 9:5, ‘”While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”’ From 7:7, ‘”The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that what it does is evil.”’ From 10:17, ‘”The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life – only to take it up again. No-one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”’ From 12:8, ‘”You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”’ From 14:6, ‘”I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well.”’ From 16:1, ‘”All this I have told you so that you will not go astray. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me.”’

Why are these the quotes I remember? I was told once to ask myself if Jesus acts the way the son of God would act. That is the key to understanding and believing and loving him. How would the son of God act then? Would he show self-importance? Arrogance? Would the world be all about him? Would no one have any reason to dislike him without having actually seen, and not just heard about, his miracles? Would he be uncompromising in Us versus Them?
Uncompromising in Us v. Them? No that would be having a faith be handed down genetically.
When I read Matthew, the first Gospel, I was disappointed that Jesus was not the kind of figure I had expected from years of exposure to contemporary Christian society. Now that I’ve seen what I presume is the last of his direct appearances, I find that while he’s not what I expected from society, he’s not so far from what I should have expected from the Bible. True, in some ways he is a caring person. I think he wants people to succeed in knowing him and in gaining the benefits that come from that. I think he wants people, at least his believers, to concentrate more on doing the right thing than in doing the ritualized thing. But he is divisive, and anything less to blind obedience and blind faith is an affront to Jesus and to God. His concern for outsiders is more to gaining their loyalty than in helping their condition on Earth. Anyone can come to Jesus, but only on his own terms and with no compromise. There is no give and take. He is, in these pages, indeed the son of God.
rtwngAvngr said:
I think you nailed it. He's saying don't be afaid of speaking truth to power, and calling out evil where you see it. And don't be ashamed of being a christian. In fact, we see many people today who ARE ashamed of being christian due to the anti-christian spin in the media and it's association with hillbillyism..
And were we not told that, those people who profess God, would be despised? It's not a very popular stand to make.

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