Thursday, April 12, 2012

Jesus As Moses (part 2 of 3)

As we focus in on the text of John, doing so with a Moses and exodus motif lingering in our minds because we locate ourselves as Jesus believers within the story of Israel, we find the author assisting us in hammering home a point previously and repeatedly made, which is that the Gospel narrative must be heard as a unified presentation, rather than presented through selected portions of the narrative.  While we can certainly elaborate on circumstances, situations, and statements, such things demand to be considered within their wider context.  Any statement by Jesus, or the author for that matter, that is pulled out of the text and examined on its own without being placed in its appropriate theological, soteriological, sociological, and eschatological framework (at the very least), can very likely end up as nothing more than an ingredient in a recipe for fallacious and anachronistic exegesis. 

So what assistance does the author provide?  He provides it with his record of the people saying “everything John said about this man was true!”  This forces the listener and the reader to recall what it was that was said by John earlier in the Gospel story.  Just as the statements by John form the foundation for the introduction of Jesus into the narrative, this recapitulation of statements by John forms the bedrock for the transition to the second half of this narrative. 

Therefore, it is important to know what John said, so that we might have these things in mind as we proceed.  He said, “This one was the one about whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is greater than I am, because He existed before me.’” (1:15)  He also said, “Among you stands one whom you do not recognize, who is coming after me.  I am not worthy to untie the strap of His sandal!” (1:26b-27).  He said “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!  This is the one about whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who is greater than I am, because He existed before me.’  I did not recognize Him, but I came baptizing with water so that He could be revealed to Israel” (1:29b-31).  This speaks to Jesus’ first identifying Himself with John’s movement, undergoing the exodus-themed baptism so that He might fit into a recognizable pattern for His people.  John also said of Jesus: “I saw the Spirit descending like a dove from heaven, and it remained on Him.  And I did not recognize Him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘The one on whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining---this is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’  I have both seen and testified that this man is the Chosen One of God” (1:32-34).  He saw Jesus and said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” (1:36b)

Amazingly, this recollection of statements by John, accompanied by another mention of “miraculous signs,” is immediately followed up by the author’s presentation of that which he presents as the most significant of Jesus’ miraculous signs (outside of the Resurrection), which is the raising of Lazarus from the dead.  The raising of Lazarus, in this Gospel, is the catalyst that causes Jesus’ ultimate fate to come cascading down upon Him.     

This is yet another reflection of the Moses motif that the author has seemingly gone to great lengths to create, though it is not one that is immediately obvious.  Because we are here concerning ourselves with defining love, and because Moses and the exodus appears to be a prominent feature of the background construct (as the exodus was always a crucial component of the way Israel understood themselves as a nation and of the way that they understood their relationship with God), we make note of the way that the story of God’s deliverance of Israel from out of Egypt effectively begins.  In the second chapter of Exodus we read “During that long period of time the king of Egypt died, and the Israelites groaned because of the slave labor.  They cried out, and their desperate cry because of their slave labor went up to God.  God heard their groaning, God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob, God saw the Israelites, and God understood…” (2:23-25).  The words immediately following are “Now Moses” (3:1).  This is a very tight grouping of highly important people and concepts.  The author of John, naturally, has a firm grasp on the fact that God’s covenant underlies all of His activity throughout history, and as we have seen, Abraham, Jacob, and Moses (but not Isaac) are mentioned in the narrative. 

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