I gave this discussion that title because the software I use to post to the web requires one and because I couldn’t think of a good title. The lesson is only sort of about Epistemology, its really a totally disorganized mish mash of several ideas that I hope will become coherent the more I write and as we discuss our text.
Our text is the same as last Sunday, but whereas our discussion was previously organized around the topic of “Glory”, this week I’d like to organize our discussion of John 17 around the topic of Knowledge. So why the big word?
Epistemology is that branch of philosophy (ugh) that concerns itself with knowledge. How do we know what we know? What are the limits of knowledge? Does it exist at all? What is real and how do we know it? Is anything real?
Have you ever been looking for answers but didn’t get the results you were looking for because you were asking the wrong questions? That happens all the time to me when I am looking for answers on Google. It gives me answers to questions I ask, but if I don’t ask the right question I don’t get the right answers.
In John 16 Jesus tells the disciples exactly that when he says,”None of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ Rather, you are filled with grief because I have said these things. But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away.” In essence he tells them that in their grief over the prospect of being separated from Jesus they are asking, “What will happen to us, how will we survive” when they should be focused on where he is going.
We have been discussing John 15. In the first part of the Chapter Jesus discusses his relationship with believers. The vehicle he uses to illustrate the point is a vine with branches. The branches cannot live, grow or bear fruit apart from the vine, but they are not just sustained by the vine they are part and parcel of a single plant. Jesus lives in believers and believers have their life in and through Christ.
Starting in Verse 18 he shifts his focus a bit to note that the unity of believers and Christ will have other results besides this mutuality of existence. In short he says that people who are not part of the vine, he calls it the world to distinguish between those who are of him and those who are of the world, will treat those who are part of the vine like the vine.
There are many things about Jesus that are similar to other religious figures throughout world history. Many were said to have performed miracles, some have even been said to have died on their followers behalf. But none have been raised from the dead. Jesus Resurrection, even more than his sacrificial death in our place, stands out as a sign for us to see and believe.
I have never really considered the Resurrection as a sign before. I would like for us to do so, less in a factual way, more in a contemplative, meditative, devotional way. What does the sign mean to you? What does it point to for you? How, if at all, does it impact you?
The 7th and last of the classical signs in John is the resurrection of Lazarus. The synoptics record two other resurrections: Jairus’ daughter in Mathew, Mark and Luke and the Widow of Nain’s Son in Luke. Only John records the events in John 11.
While there are a number of similarities between the other two recorded resurrections and Lazarus’, there are two important differences.
Comparing the case of the young man from Nain with Lazarus:
- A sick person dies before Jesus arrives.
- He tells the widow not to cry (like Lazarus’ relatives).
- He commands the young man to get up.
Comparing Lazarus with Jairus’ daughter:
- A sick person dies before Jesus arrives.
- Sleep is used a s a metaphor for death
- Jesus express emotion or displeasure with the mourners
- Jesus commands Lazarus to come out.
- Jesus gives instructions for care for the one raised.
In John 9 Jesus heals a blind man and creates a stir among the Pharisees. While the Synoptic Gospels report a number of instances where Jesus healed a blind person, this instance appears only in John. This account has a couple of distinctives: nobody asked Jesus to heal the man (even the man), the healing took place away from Jesus’ person and there was an instrumentality involved.
Jesus and his Disciples came upon a man who had been blind since birth and, it seems, began an oddly rude conversation right in front of him. The disciples were sure that the blind man’s condition was the result of sin (a common notion among 1st Century Jews) and asked Jesus if it was the man’s sins or his parents which made him blind. It was an extremely odd question because, since he was blind from birth, he would have had to sin before he was born or the blindness would have to have been a preemptive punishment for sin he would commit after birth.
Sorry about the picture. Couldn’t resist.
There are a lot of jokes, some good, some not so good about walking on water and about Jesus’ intent and the Disciples reaction. This sign also appears in popular culture. If you say,”Sally thinks she walks on water” or “the boss thinks Joe walks on water”, what do you mean?
Walking on water, something everybody knows is impossible is an over the top sign that whoever is doing it is somehow different/better. Only flying could top walking on water.
This week I am second guessing my decision to look at the Gospel of John through the lens of Jesus signs because it means we skip over a number of significant passages, ie Cleansing the Temple, Jesus and Nicodemus, and the Woman at the Well. Tempted as I am to linger on some of those I am pressing on to the second sign John records in 4:43-54.
Now we know this was not the second sign Jesus performed (even though John calls it that). In 2:23 John writes,”Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, many people saw the signs he was performing and believed in his name.” Why do you think John called out the signs he did?
We are exploring the Gospel of John by looking at the signs he records that Jesus performed (there are 7 plus His Resurrection, the ultimate sign). John’s purpose in writing, as we have discussed, was to present Jesus as the Messiah, not to provide a complete timeline of His activities. One of the ways John pursues this goal is by the sequence of signs he introduces.
While some of these are mentioned in the synoptics, John almost always has a twist or a different slant on them. He seems to be showing us, through the lens of the signs, how the Disciples came to know who Jesus really was and to invite us to follow along.
The Gospel of John presents a number of problems in determining who wrote it and when (our usual starting place for trying to understand a book of the bible). First it does not give us any direct indication as to its author other than saying it was written by the Disciple whom Jesus loved. Traditionally this is assumed to be John the Apostle because John is referred to in this manner elsewhere in scripture.
Current theories as to its authorship in secular and non-conservative circles reference a Johannine School. A school of thought reflective of the theology of the Gospel of John through which the gospel was written in layers, over time, in the late first or early second century. These writers had access to the Synoptic gospels and recast stories from the synoptics to fit their theological predilections.