Lectionary Year A
March 21, 1999
Step III: Immediate Context
(JC) - A. IMMEDIATE CONTEXT
John 11:4 "This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's
glory so that God's Son might be glorified through it."
Jesus' motivation for doing things is different from ours. His is always
to point to God the Father. Even what seems to be Jesus ignoring Lazarus and his
sisters is actually something that will be used for God's glory and so that
many will come to Jesus.
John 12:9-11 At the dinner party held in Jesus' honor by the newly risen
Lazarus and his two sisters, Lazarus draws a crowd just like Jesus does.
Everyone wants to know (and who wouldn't) what it's like to be raised from
the dead. This idea would be a great sermon starter. "You ever wonder
what it would be like to talk to someone who's been raised from the dead?"
This would tie in with the fascination with near death
experiences/angels/spirituality that is so prevalent in our society. (This
is probably a hermeneutical bridge. You'll have to forgive me,
everything kind of runs together in my thinking!)
What the dinner party crowd proves, and John says as much in verse 12:11,
is that Jesus was right about raising Lazarus. Jesus was glorified and
many became followers and believers on account of what they saw him do.
What better proof does one need than to talk to a guy who was dead for four
days, then raised again.
I recently talked with a guy who knew of a fellow who'd been declared dead
for at least 15 minutes, then came back to life. That is wild enough, but
pales in comparison to a resurrection after four days. What we are dealing
with in Jesus is someone totally unique, the events of his life being
beyond comparison with anything anyone has ever heard or seen. Would that
sort of resurrection make a believer out of you? It certainly would me!
(TD) - B. ORGANIZATION OF THE COMPOSTIONAL WHOLE
John's differences with the synoptics: no account of the birth of Jesus,
baptism, temptation, Last Supper, Gethsemane, or the ascension. No parable
stories or healings of demoniacs. In John, Jesus' speeches are often a
whole chapter long.
The facts of the life and ministry of Jesus are different in John. The design
of the gospel as a whole is stated by the author in 20:31. Therefore, what
is told in this account of Jesus' life and ministry reveals Jesus as
Messiah, Son of God. God is revealed in Jesus Christ. Jesus provided
access to God in ways never before possible. The frequent "I am"
statements by Jesus in this gospel are a radical claim that Jesus is God
The structure of this gospel is often broken down into two parts:
Chapters   1-12 the book of signs
Chapters 13-20 the book of glory
(TD) - C. ISSUES OF AUTHORSHIP
This gospel was known in Egypt by 100 A.D (from P52). Its first commentary
was written by Heracleon around 150. John was most likely written at
Ephesus, also maybe Antioch or Alexandria. This gospel is an anonymous
document. Tradition claims (Irenaeus) the author as John the "Son of
Zebedee", the apostle. Many scholars believe it was composed by a disciple
of John who recorded his preaching. The author was a Jewish Christian who wrote for
and in a Jewish Christian community in conflict with synagogue authorities.
The vast majority of converts were now from Hellenistic not Jewish
backgrounds. A crisis may have precipitated the writing of this gospel:
possibly the "putting out of the synagogue" or excommunication as heretics
for those who practiced alternative forms of Judaism (e.g. belief in
Jesus). There are certainly Greek and Gnostic influences in 1st century
Judaism. The work of Philo is one example. Shades of both these influences,
consistant with the religious diversity of the 1st century Mediterranean
world, can be seen in John's writing.
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