Lectionary Year A
March 21, 1999
John 11:1-45

Step III: 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!


     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 incarnate.

      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


      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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