Friday, March 16, 2007

Jesus and God and Israel in John's Gospel

Today we leave with our student ministry for our Spring Retreat. My plan is to encourage the students to spend personal time reading Jesus' High Priestly Prayer recorded in John 17. As I did a bit of reading to gain a better understanding of the Prayer's role in John's story, I came across these extraordinary insights from Bishop N.T. Wright in his book, The New Testament and the People of God. Wright understands John's Gospel as designed to demonstrate that what God is doing through the ministry of Jesus serves as the climax to what God has been doing with Israel. Furthermore, John is seeking to demonstrate that what God is doing with Israel has profound implications for the entire cosmos. Therefore, "the question of the creator and the cosmos, the world, becomes the question of Jesus and Israel. And when that question is resolved, with the full paradox and irony of the crucifixion of the King of the Jews, then at once the world can become the beneficiary" (Wright, 412). Insights such as these reveal that too often our reading of the biblical text remains at the superficial (maybe syntactical!) level. How texts in John relate to the grand metanarrative that God is telling through Moses and Abraham and David and Daniel and Jesus and Paul becomes the crucial question for NT interpretation.


Floyd Edwards said...

One time as I was teaching the Bible to a class someone asked me a question. Before I could answer someone else chimed in, "He's already told you more about this subject than he knows."

I must confess I can find no connection (not even illustrative) between this prayer and Israel.

By the way us English majors can tell you there ain't no such work as "metanarrative."

David B. Johnson said...

Basically, I am agreeing with Wright and many other biblical scholars who argue that Jesus is the true Israel. In other words, he fulfilled what Israel never could. He was a blessing to the nations. Notice some of the parallels between Jesus' personal history and Israel's. Israel-40 years in the wilderness. Jesus 40 days. Some see a parallel between Jesus' baptism and Israel's crossing the Red Sea. I could go on, but as you have already noticed the Law of Christ somehow fulfills or "replaces" the Law of Moses. Interestingly, Jesus delivered much of that teaching from a Mountain (Sinai)! Jesus, by his life, death, resurrection, and ascension ended the exile of the people of God in a way that Israel was helpless to accomplish. So what we are saying is that Jesus took upon himself the role of Israel, fulfilled that divine role, and then charged his followers to continue that ministry. John 17 records Jesus' prayer about how we are to continue in his "absence." There seems to be a lot of continuity between the responsibilities God gave to Israel and Jesus gave to his followers. One example; how we are to treat the poor!

One more thing...
From Webster's New Millennium Dictionary of English:
Main Entry: metanarrative
Part of Speech: n
Definition: any story told to justify another story, esp. involving artifice; a story about oneself that provides a view of one's experiences

Floyd Edwards said...

Oh, explained that way I can see it. As for the two dollar word, I should have checked more than one dictionary I guess, albeit the one I did check is the "Bible" of the English Language....The Oxford English Dictionary. Hmmmmm.