The King of Stories -- The Teacher of the People, and the Final Witness

Introductory note from Jason Pratt: see here for the previous entry; and see here for the first entry of the series. (It explains what I'm doing, and how, and contains the Johannine prologue.)

Since some of the later chapters are long enough that I'll want to break them into two parts, I'm taking the opportunity to consolidate some shorter chapters here.

The Teacher of the People

After this (wedding at Cana, says the Evangelist), Jesus went with His mother and brothers, and with His disciples, down to Capernaum (to visit family, or because Jesus already had a house there. Capernaum was a town on the northwest coast of Galilee Lake, between Magdala and Chorazin.)

They stayed there for a few days, until the Passover (Festival) of the Jews was at hand; then Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

And in the Temple (specifically in the outer court which was supposed to be reserved for the non-Jews and anyone currently not ritually clean, so they could worship), Jesus found merchants selling oxen and sheep and doves (for the sacrificial rites happening further inside the Temple), along with moneychangers sitting nearby (helping convert foreign currency to local, but at a rate for their own profit--and with a percentage kept back for the high priest family of Annas and Caiaphas...)

Now making a whip out of ropes, He throws them all from the Temple, along with their sheep and oxen!--pouring out all the coins of the moneychangers, and overturning their tables!

And to those who were selling the doves, He said: "Take these away; stop making My Father's house a merchant's house!"

His disciples (adds the Evangelist) would remember that it is written (in Psalm 69): “Zeal for Thy house will be devouring me!”

So the Jews (very probably meaning leaders among the Sanhedrin--Annas and Caiaphas had actually moved the main rooms of the Sanhedrin down next to the Court of Gentiles, so as to be nearer the vendors) responded, saying to Him: "Show us some sign that you have the authority to do these things!"

Jesus said to them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up."

So the Jews said, "It took forty-six years to build this Temple--and you will be raising it up in three days!?"

But (adds the Evangelist) He was speaking of the temple of His body: after He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered He had said this; and so believed that what Jesus said, had been referring to a scripture. (Possibly Psalm 16:10)

Now, while He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name ('the Lord saves'), seeing the signs which He was doing.

But Jesus Himself was hardly telling them everything yet, because He knew the hearts of men--for (adds the Evangelist again) Jesus had no need for someone else to tell Him what was in the heart of any person; He Himself knew what was in mankind.


Now (continues the Evangelist), there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews (and member of the Sanhedrin, the religious court of priests ruling Israel under the oversight of Rome. This may be supposed to be Nicodemus Ben Gurion, but the text doesn't specifically say so.)

This man came to Jesus by night, saying to Him: "Rabbi--we know you have come from God as a teacher, for no one could be doing the signs you are doing if God is not with him."

Jesus replied: "I promise, I promise, I tell you the truth: unless one is born from above (or again), he cannot be seeing the kingdom of God."

Nicodemus said to Him, "How can any person be born when he is old? He cannot enter the womb of his mother a second time to be born--can he?"

Jesus answered: "I promise, I promise, I tell you the truth: anyone who is not born of water and of spirit, cannot be entering into the kingdom of God. What is born of flesh, is flesh; what is born of spirit, is spirit. You should not be amazed that I said to you, you must be born again. The wind may blast where it wishes, and you may hear it!--but you cannot see where it came from, or where it is going. Everyone who is born both of water and of spirit is like this wind." [Footnote: another translation: "The Spirit may breathe where It wishes, and you may hear It!--but you cannot see where It came from, or where It is going. Everyone who is born both of water and of spirit is like this Spirit." Either reading seems valid, and the meanings are complementary.]

Nicodemus responded by saying to Him, "How can these things be?"

Jesus answered, saying to him: "You are a rabbi of Israel, and do not understand these things!? I promise, I promise, I tell you the truth: We know what We are talking about!--and We know what We are talking about! [Note: using two different ways of saying this same thing, as in a poetic Psalm.] But you aren't getting what We are saying yet... If I told you about terrestrial things, you still would not be believing Me, so how should you believe when I tell you of celestial things?"


Now (adds the Evangelist), no one has ascended into heaven except the Descender from heaven, the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, the Son of Man must also be lifted up; so that whomever is trusting may, in Him, have God's own life. (The phrase is 'zoe eonian', often translated 'life eternal'; 'eonian' typically refers to a property of God, beyond time.)

God loves the world (the 'kosmos', the whole creation) this much. Therefore, He gives His only-Begotten Son, that everyone who will trust in Him shall not be perishing any more, but may be having God's own life!

For God (continues the Evangelist) does not send His Son into the world to (only) be judging the world, but so that the world may be saved through Him. The believer in Him is not being judged; but anyone not believing has been judged already: for he has not believed in the name of the only-Begotten Son of God. (i.e. has not believed 'the Lord is salvation'--if you insist the Lord God does not save, then how shall you be saved!?)

Now, here is the crisis: the light has come into the world, but people love darkness instead of the light, for their deeds are evil: everyone committing sins is hating the light, and is not coming to the light, lest their acts be exposed! But he who does the truth comes toward the light so his acts will be shown, for they have been wrought in God.

The Final Witness of the Forerunner

After these things (says the Evangelist, i.e. after the signs Jesus did in Jerusalem during Passover week), Jesus and His disciples went into the Judean countryside, and there He stayed for a while with them while they baptized (some of the people who had begin putting their trust in Him during Passover. This probably takes place east of Jerusalem past Jericho at the River Jordan.)

And John was also baptizing, in Aenon near Salim, where many waters were; people still were coming to him to be baptized, for John had not yet been thrown into jail.

[Footnote: Aenon was a town in the Samarian region, near the River Jordan, twenty or thirty miles north, upriver of where Jesus and His disciples currently are. The reference to 'many waters' probably means the confluence of two rivers into the Jordan near this location, one of which was the eastern river Jabbok.]

At this time there arose a discussion between some of John's disciples and a Jew (evidently a Pharisee), concerning cleansing.

So they went to John and said to him: "Rabbi; He who was with You on the other side of the Jordan, of Whom you have testified--look! He is baptizing and everyone now is going to Him!"

John said in answer: "A person cannot be receiving anything, unless it is given to him out of Heaven. You yourselves can testify that I never said 'I am the Anointed King'; but rather 'I have been sent before Him'.

"The Bridegroom is the One Who will marry the bride; yet the friend of the Bridegroom, who stands and hears His joy, rejoices greatly himself at the sound of His voice! And so, this joy of mine has been fulfilled.

"He must increase; and I must decrease. He Who comes from above, is above all. He who is of the earth, is of the earth, and of the earth he is speaking.

"He Who comes from the heavens (John the Baptist emphasized) is above all. What He has seen and heard, of that He bears witness; but no one is receiving His (full) testimony yet.

"He who has received His witness (i.e. the Baptist himself; or possibly the Evangelist interjecting a commentary), sets his seal that God is true. Whomever God commissions, speaks the declarations of God; for God does not give the Spirit by limits.

(Therefore John gave his final testimony:) "The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand. He who is trusting the Son has God's own life; but he who is stubborn as to the Son, shall not be seeing (that) life: the wrath of God abides on him."


So (continues the Evangelist), when the Lord knew the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John--although certainly (the Evangelist adds) Jesus Himself was not baptizing, but His disciples were--He left Judea, and came away again into Galilee.

John 2:12-23
John 3:1-36
John 4:1-3

[Next time: The Woman at the Well, and the (semi-)Triumphant Return]


Jason Pratt said…
Someday I'll post up a fairly long essay concerning some interesting features (including for harmonization studies) on the debate with Nicodemus. For now I will only point out that it's a shorthand report (as most such anecdotes are), but still loaded with rabbinic disputation issues, including reference back to the mission (and reformatory critique) of JohnBapt: something not really found in GosJohn, but evident in the Synoptics.

Anonymous said…
Great Blog.

I've found a militant atheist if you want to try and help him; he's at:

GBWY, James
Jason Pratt said…
Um... thanks. Usually I let Jesus help militant atheists who hate Jesus, though. Seems like it's something they really need to work out between themselves. {s!} (And actual discussions don't often occur in cases of the sort you're talking about, any moreso than with militant Christians.)


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