Lectionary Year B
April 2, 2000
John 3:14-21

Step III: Immediate Context


Pre: The first 13 verses of John 3 tell of Nicodemus, a leading Jewish Pharisee. He came to Jesus by night claiming to be familiar with his coming from God since he was known to have done miraculous feats. Jesus changed the topic of discussion to “being born again”. Nicodemus needed clarification. Jesus added to the topic references of “being born of water and the Spirit”. Then, Jesus calls it, “being born from above”. Then Jesus debates with Nicodemus about what they (the Jewish Pharisees) believe, regarding what Jesus’ followers believe about what they see, know and testify. Calling them, “heavenly things”, about which he tells Nicodemus he and his school seem unable to believe. Jesus’ reference to Moses’ lifting the serpent in the wilderness seems to conclude that conversation. Maybe it doesn’t. Perhaps that conversation continues.

Post: Jesus and his disciples go into the Judean country side where he takes time to teach them and to baptize. The Jews ask John, who we read is not yet in prison, about Jesus’ baptizing. John reminds them that he told them of his being the forerunner of the Messiah and definitely not the Messiah. He refers to Jesus as the bridegroom whose friend stands and enjoys hearing him and says he (the Messiah) must increase as he (the Baptist) must decrease. Then he mentions Jesus’ having come from above and being above all and other such images. The third chapter of John’s Gospel ends by repeating “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life.” Then it concludes, “whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God’s wrath.”

As noted previously, the Gospel of John notes repeatedly how Jesus’ person and mission confuse and/or bewilder many including his family members, the disciples and others in his circle of friends, the priests and rabbis, the Pharisees and others. Many of these by-standers notice “signs” and seek interpretations of them. The “special intent” of this Gospel is admitted in 20:31, “written that you might believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and believing you might have life in his name”. Some call the fourth Gospel “more spiritual” than the synoptics. I have called it “more philosophical” than the others. Am I close to right, if philosophy is defined as “the study of principles of the widest generality”? John’s scope is global and he frequently more than the synoptics seeks to explain some of the theological meanings of Jesus’ sayings and ministries. John’s Gospel certainly takes more time and gives more attention to interpret what Jesus did and said. In today’s pericope, for example, we read how subjects get addressed before the oppositions and/or observers evidently raise them. Someone has noticed that the fourth Gospel, more than the synoptics, presents Jesus as patiently conversant by letting hearers interrupt him and by dialoguing with them and/or even debating with them. In John’s Gospel we find more new material not in the synoptics. The Gospel of John seems to focus on the person of Jesus, what his life meant and how believers are to find meaning in their/our lives to believe in God and divine grace.

As previously noted, most recent scholarship seems to reclaim the earlier centuries’ (1 and 2 CE) supposition that John, the son of Zebedee, brother of James and disciple, wrote the fourth Gospel or that a disciple of his did. Some think John dictated it late in his life from memory and/or from mature reflection on Jesus’ speeches and deeds. The general agreement for a date of composition is late in the first century of the CE.

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