Category Archives: Gospel of John

Christ-with-us–the Advocate, the Paraclete

Wolframs-Eschenbach. Church of our Lady: Altar...

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Another Johannine theme that speaks to me powerfully: the Paraclete/ the Advocate. Several times Jesus speaks of the gift of the Spirit that is to come. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and will remind you of all that I have said to you. (John 14:26)

Here’s what I gathered from all the commentaries: The glorification of Jesus at his death released into the world the Spirit of Truth, the Advocate and Paraclete. The spirit is “Christ-with-us,” appearing as Jesus leaves. He is delivered over as Jesus dies on the cross, breathed upon the disciples at Jesus’ first resurrection appearance to them, sent from above as Jesus returns to his Father’s side. Every step in Jesus’ exaltation is accompanied by a gift to us of his Spirit.

As the Spirit of Truth, he will be the constant guide of disciples, speaking to them and to us (through inspired preachers and writers) what he hears from Jesus, who in turn receives from the Father.

Finally, in my own words, a prayer to the Holy Spirit:

Breath to Breath

Paraclete. Advocate. Champion.

You are the gift of love released with the last breath of Jesus on the cross. You are one with Christ and the Father, a presence within us unbound by time or place.

Holy Spirit, guide us. Holy Spirit, protect us. Holy Spirit, intercede for us.

As once you filled the Upper Room with wind and fire, so too may you fill our souls with wisdom, courage, and the breath of everlasting life. Amen.


Bread of Life

The Gathering of the Manna, by James Tissot

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One of the evangelist’s many themes in this gospel relates to the Eucharist as the Bread of Life. Contemplating this theme pulls me back to the genesis of this blog: the concept of wandering through the wilderness.

God rained down manna in the wilderness to sustain Moses and his people. The Eucharist is our manna, to nourish and sustain us as we wander through our 21st century wilderness. Jesus is our bread from heaven, the bread-wisdom giving life to those who believe in him. Not life on this earth but eternal life with God.

In the Eucharist, we become one with God. He is in us and we are in Him. What we consume is the Spirit-filled flesh and blood of the Son of Man. It sustains us until the raising up of the last day.

Perhaps the greatest Johannine theme: Jesus is the Word of God sent by God. The pre-existent word of God incarnate. Jesus is the way to the Father. Sent by God, Jesus finishes the work God gave him to do and then goes back to God.

The evangelist is also found of dualities: Light and darkness, truth and falsehood, life and death, above and below, sight and blindness.

The Lord is risen!

Christ washing the feet of the Apostles, by Gi...

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He is risen indeed! — an exchange borrowed from our Orthodox brethren and passed on by our bishop. This year, Holy Week services have been especially fulfilling, as I hear echoes from so much of what we’ve studied the past two years in Catholic Biblical School. … Readings from Genesis and Exodus … from Paul’s writings …

From the gospel of John, the washing of the feet and the Passion, with Jesus handing over the Spirit, the Paraclete, at his death.

From Revelation, the Alpha and the Omega, and–a special treat last night from the cathedral choir–the Hallelujah Chorus.

Grace and peace to all.

The disciple beloved of Jesus

Damian. "Jesus Christ and St. John the Ap...

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So who was the Beloved Disciple of John’s Gospel? The “one whom Jesus loved”?

I am fascinated by the theories. Tradition has it that the gospel itself was written by John the Apostle, brother of James and son of Zebedee. But he couldn’t possibly still be living when the gospel was written in 90-100 AD, could he? And clearly there are parts written by someone else, as they refer to the Beloved Disciple’s death.

Some speculate the Beloved Disciple was Lazarus of Bethany, the brother of Martha and Mary. The siblings certainly enjoyed a close relationship with Jesus. He was often in their home. And the beloved disciple of the gospel was a person of some influence. He had cachet with local authorities and was able to win entry for him and Peter to the courtyard of the high priest. Here’s a GoogleBook link to a page from Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels that explains the reasoning of J.N. Sanders on the subject, then dismisses it entirely:

Then, of course, there are those who suggest that he is a she – Mary Magdalene. Novelist Dan Brown (The DaVinci Code) hypothesizes that it is she who was seated next to Jesus at the Last Supper and pictured in DaVinci’s painting with flowing locks, smooth face, no beard.

Scholars today believe a disciple who knew Jesus was a major source for the gospel, but other sources were used: signs or miracles, sayings, the passion and resurrection narrative. The Beloved Disciple serves as the model of a faithful believer. By never naming the mysterious disciple, the gospel allows each of us to enter into the story ourselves, as one whom Jesus loves.

Want to know more on the authorship issue? There’s an exhaustive article, with 82 footnotes, on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.or/wiki/Authorship_of_the_Johannine_works

Side note: Actually, I believe John the Apostle could have been still alive at the time the gospel was begun. In the synoptic gospels, he and James seem to have been young and impetuous– the “sons of thunder.” Boys were considered men at 14, doing their father’s work and, sometimes, starting families. Had he been 16 at the time of the call, John would have been in his late 70s at the time the writing began. In any case, I like to think that Jesus took a fatherly interest in young John the apostle.

How John’s gospel differs from the synoptics

John the Evangelist, Russian icon from first q...

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The Gospel of John, I find, is far more accessible than I expected, yet every bit as profound.

Given the richly layered poetry of the familiar prologue—In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God—I assumed the rest of the gospel would be complex. It is, but it also is simple. That is, much of it can be read at different levels of meaning. The evangelist tells a story, as do the writers of the synoptic gospels, and even a casual reader can follow the narrative. But many of the plot points are symbolic or have double meanings—earthly and spiritual.

And it’s a very different story than the other gospels. They can be compared to each other side by side, but not to John.

So what’s so different? Instructor Gene Giuliano laid it out for us.

  • No temptation scene. Three Passover journeys, not just one. Emphasis on ministry in Jerusalem, not in Galilee. Only one use of the term “Kingdom of God.” The temple is cleared at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, not the end.
  • No parables. Instead, John makes his point in lengthy discourses in solemn language. Jesus even has a farewell discourse.
  • No moral teachings, per se. John emphasizes only one commandment: Love one another as I have loved you.
  • No exorcisms. No large crowds gathering and frequent cures. Instead John organizes his account on seven signs, from the marriage at Cana to the resurrection of Lazarus at Bethany.
  • Jesus, always, is in control. This is not the deeply human Suffering Servant of Mark, betrayed, anguished, unable to cure disbelievers in his hometown. John’s Jesus speaks calmly at the moment of death: Woman, behold your son. … I thirst … It is finished.

On a more profound level:

  • Jesus is pre-existent with the Father.
  • The future is now. The other evangelists speak of the second coming, the judgment. In John, all is realized. Judgment is now.
  • Everything reveals Jesus. It’s a “high christology,” emphasizing his divinity. In the other gospels, readers are led to an understanding of Jesus as Christ. In John, his identity is clear from the beginning, laid out in a series of “testimonies” by John the Baptist, his followers, and disciples: Lamb of God. Messiah. “The one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets.” Son of God. King of Israel.