Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Love On John's Terms (part 18)

Something that must be noted as these efforts progress, is that once the scene of this Gospel shifts to Judea, it is a final shift.  There will be no more changes of scene or location until after Jesus’ Resurrection.  From the fourteenth verse of John’s seventh chapter, all the way until the beginning of the twenty-first chapter, Jesus is never to be found at too great a distance from Jerusalem.  This continuity in change of settings may carry with it some mild significance, as it relates to another repetitive message in John. 

Here in the seventh chapter, after a few more words from Jesus that served to prompt what are reported to be additional private exchanges amongst the Jewish leaders, Jesus is said to have “stood up and shouted” (7:37b).  It seems clear that the author wants to emphasize the words that are to follow, and any public performance of the written presentation of this theo-drama would quite naturally follow suit, with the reader also standing and shouting along with Jesus.  Jesus’ hearers, along with the audience of this Gospel story, hear “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink” (7:37c-38a). 

Where was this first heard?  Of course, Jesus was heard saying this to the Samaritan woman at the well.  His words there were “whoever drinks some of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again, but the water that I will give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up to eternal life” (4:14).  An approximation of these words are said to have fallen from Jesus’ lips after the feeding of the five thousand and His walking on water, when He said “The one who comes to Me will never go hungry, and the one who believes in Me will never go thirsty” (6:35b).  Now Jesus can be heard saying “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink.”  Interestingly, the first instance of such speech is in Samaria, whereas the second instance is in Galilee, and the third instance is in Jerusalem. 

Not to unnecessarily muddy the waters with a non-Johannine reference, but this is somewhat evocative of a statement that is recorded in the first chapter of Acts, in which Jesus says to His disciples “you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the farthest parts of the earth” (1:8b).  In the case of Acts and quite significantly when it comes to understanding the nature of the kingdom of heaven come to earth through Jesus and those that claim allegiance to Him as King of all, Jesus directs His followers to an ever widening geographical circle to which they are to witness to the facts about Jesus and His Gospel.  In John, the order is somewhat reversed, in that Jesus presents what the author considers to be an extremely important aspect of His message first to Gentiles, and then in an area that is a mixture of Jew and Gentile (Galilee of the Gentiles is a Scriptural refrain), and then in the Temple itself, which would presumably be a message directed almost exclusively to Jews. 

So in the case of John’s presentation of Jesus, His ministry begins with a wide geographical circle that is narrowed down as He goes along (though this is not meant to imply any narrowing in the intended reach of His message).  This is yet another piece of information by which one can deduce the nature of the audience to which the Johannine writings are directed, and the way in which Christian love, rooted in the dissemination of the Gospel message, is to be expressed 

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