Gospel of John Class

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Monastic formation class on the Gospel of John

AI Summary: 





Fr. Bruno says there will be 5 talks in Part 1 of this class series; talk 5 not found yet; The tapes for Part 2 have also not been found. Part 1 is September 15, 22, 29, October 6, 13, 1990.


Let me pass out some papers first. These you can just set aside for a few minutes and we'll get through them. Otherwise I'll just distract you. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Heavenly Father, your son Jesus promised that his spirit would guide us into all truth. We ask for the gift of your spirit that we may understand the words which he has left us. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen. Today we've got a lot of territory to cover. And we're going to start the narrative of John's Gospel. We've been talking about the prologue and we have an abrupt change from prologue to narrative,


from one style to another, from a very solemn metaphysical style to something which is like the other Gospels and yet not quite like the other Gospels, not quite like Mark or Matthew or Luke. It's always playing against this metaphysical background. It's always playing against the kind of centering presence that we found in the prologue. We'll see that as we go through. What we want to cover today basically is John chapters 1 and 2. I'm afraid we'll have to do it a bit on the run because we only have these five periods before our interval. So we're going to break this into three pieces. The first is John 1.19 to 1.51, which covers the appearance of John the Baptist and then Jesus' first disciples coming and meeting him and recognizing him somewhat. And then we'll talk about the wedding feast of Cana


and finally about Jesus' purification of the temple, also in the second chapter of John and try to see what relationship there is between these. Now after we do these three episodes, we're going to jump around a bit in the Gospel. But we'll take these three together as a kind of introduction to the narrative and bringing out some of the fundamental themes insofar as they're narrative themes. Things that are going to come back again and again and again. Let's begin on that first one, starting with John 1.19. And this is the testimony of John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who are you? Now note that this picks up the pieces you had about John already in the prologue. We found a couple of little narratives about John stuck into the prologue. They seemed out of place. And there are lots of people who believe that originally the narrative included those two pieces that are in the prologue and then they were sort of banged together, that the narrative was joined, sort of soldered to the prologue,


but not too neatly so that you have an overlap in that way. I think there's probably something more orderly to it than that. According to Dodd, that interpretation of John's gospel, the whole of John chapter 1 is what he calls the proem, which I suppose is a kind of pro-poem, something like that. Proem. And he divides it into two parts. The first part is the prologue. The second part he calls the testimony. So John 1 to 18 is the prologue, obviously. But John 1.19 to 1.51 would be what he calls the testimony because it starts, it's a series of testimonies to Jesus' identity, and it starts with a testimony of John, and then in several different waves, stages, and then ends up with a testimony of Nathanael, as we shall see, which is more emphatic, and a kind of crescendo there. So there's a kind of, not only a change of scene, but a change of style, from a kind of metaphysical poetry in the prologue


to what you might call narrative poetry. Still poetic, still very elusive, still often with a second level of meanings underneath the surface level of meanings. It's far from being merely narrative. If you compare it with Mark's gospel, and often John seems to know about Mark, seems to base himself somewhat on Mark, even if by contrast, if you compare it with Mark's gospel, it seems a lot more conscious symbolism and conscious presence of a second level of significance there. It's a literary device. Now, immediately here in John 1.19, you've got these people who come from Jerusalem, the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem. This is setting up a contrast, it's setting up an opposition immediately. We're going to find these people hassling Jesus as well. So, immediately we've got a contrast set up between John, who's out in the wilderness there, out by the Jordan. You picture him there by the river. And these official people,


who are sent out from the center of official Jewish religion. All of those words, Jews, priests, Levites and Jerusalem, and he could have said Judea as well, indicate this kind of hostile territory of the center of the Jewish religion, which Jesus is going to come into conflict with. And the contrast between the city and the official religion, and then John out in the wilderness. Now, this is something that goes way back to the Old Testament. In the Old Testament, we have the prophets, often out in some solitary spot out in the wilderness. And then you have the officialdom in the center, both the king and the priest and so on. And the contrast between wilderness and city, wilderness and temple, and between the prophet and officialdom, both civil and religious officialdom. And Jesus is going to be running into the same thing. And when he does, now, Jesus is very much the prophetic figure. In other words, he's on the side of John. But unlike John, he goes among people in a different way.


And we're going to find symbolically the contrast between John and Jesus, brought up very much in the miracle of Cana, the wedding, the water versus the wine, John versus Jesus. We'll come back to that. And from the beginning in John's gospel, John the Baptist is located within a structure of contrast. There's this contrast with the official guys, the high priests, the Levites and so on. Not chief priests here, but little priests and Levites sent from Jerusalem to question him, sent by the big priests. And the second contrast is implicit in John's responses to the questions of these officials. It's marvelous the way John builds this up here. Of course, it's better in the Greek because it's more concise and powerful. But they say, who are you? And he confessed and he did not deny, but confessed, I am not the Christ. He confessed, but he did deny because he spoke negatively.


I am not the Christ. And they said, they asked him, what then? Are you Elijah? He said, I am not. Are you the prophet? And he answered, no. And what we've got is a kind of declining crescendo here from I am not the Christ to I am not to simply no. It's as if John disappears, evaporates. Remember where it says in the other Gospel, he must increase and I must decrease. So here's John decreasing already in a series of negatives which itself almost vanishes. But which contrasts very powerfully with, remember Jesus' I am statements? Or I am, sometimes he says I am the bread of life, sometimes I am the light of the world, sometimes I'm simply I am. And here is John fading out in these dark negatives. John who is a kind of shadow of Jesus here. Disidentifying himself and his whole thrust, his whole emphasis is going to be on this one who comes. So after kind of vanishing himself in this way, verbally, he begins to talk about Jesus. I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness,


make straight the way of the Lord. Now this word way, this word way, by the way, the way that they question him is a little like the way Moses questioned God kind of thing in Exodus. Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself? Remember that? I won't press that. He said I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord. If you look in your footnotes, that's Isaiah chapter 40, verse 3. Now that's the beginning of the so-called book of consolation in Isaiah. It's second Isaiah and it goes from Isaiah 40 through Isaiah 55. Now this whole section, Isaiah 40 to 55, is extremely important as a background for John's Gospel. I won't be able to come back to it very often for time limitations, but it would be well worth your while reading it. Somebody could make a project out of that. Reading that section and then finding the connection to John's Gospel. Especially at the beginning and at the end. At the beginning you've got this, John the Baptist at the end.


Remember Isaiah 55? My thoughts are not like my thoughts, as the heavens are high above the earth, so my thoughts are different from your thoughts. And as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, so shall my word come down and do everything that I sent it for. My word shall not come back to me idle. Now this word is the Logos, which is the Logos incarnate, which is Jesus in John's Gospel. So that whole section there in Isaiah is very close to John. Now the important thing about that section is, what's it talking about, second Isaiah? It's talking about another exodus. Another exodus. It's talking, it seems to me, to the Jews in exile. And they're going to experience another exodus, this time not from Egypt, but from Babylon. Now this leads us to the second background. The most important Old Testament background for the Gospel of John is in two places, Exodus and Genesis. I think I mentioned this last time,


but there's an interplay in John, a basic interplay, I believe, in John's Gospel is between Exodus and Genesis. It's between Moses and the creation. And John the Baptist, in some ways, is on the side of Moses. John is an intermediate figure on the side of Moses. And in contrast with Moses, because he doesn't represent the law there so much, the prophet. From Exodus to Genesis, what John is giving us is a new creation presented against the background of Exodus. So John the Baptist represents the Exodus, and Jesus represents the new creation. The difference between the water, the Red Sea, through which the Israelites had to go, and the wine which is poured out at Cana, and which is the Spirit of Jesus itself, is the imminence of God, the unitive imminence of God, is the difference between Exodus going out and a religion of separation, a religion basically of dualism, a religion of confrontation, of encounter,


of dialogue, of, as the Jewish theologian says, of I am now, if you like. And a unitive religion, which is what Jesus brings. Jesus brings a unitive religion in which God and the human person are no longer two things but one. And yet they remain, of course, they keep their identity, they keep their distinct identity, but they are one. And this is the marvel that is symbolized at Cana, the wedding feast of Cana. It's not only the making of water into wine, but it's the bringing together of the two which is symbolized there. And so the whole of John's Gospel can be read through that wedding at Cana, but we'll talk more about that when we get to it. And the whole John the Baptist thing here, in the first chapter, is leading up to Cana. See, John is the contrast figure. John is the man of water, Jesus is the man of wine. And then you have to understand what that water, excuse me, what that water means and what the wine means. You can say that the water means exodus, if you like, very briefly and crudely, and that the wine means new creation. In fact, it is a creation when Jesus makes it.


But he makes it not just from nothing, but he makes it from the first creation, from the water of the first creation, from that kind of helpless element, that flat element of water. He makes the wine, which is a feast, which is a celebration, which is fullness, which is joy. It's a kind of ecstatic reality of this new unit of creation. But I'm leaping ahead and getting into Cana before we've finished with this. So that second contrast is between John and Jesus, the one who disidentifies himself, the one who is kind of concave and who is continually disappearing, continually vanishing, and the one who is appearing like the rising sun, who is Jesus. And the same thing is true not only of John the Baptist, but of the whole old dispensation, see, the whole law, the whole Jewish religion is vanishing like a shadow as this sun appears, the sun which is evident only to those who believe in him, but which is rising in the sky. Immediately at the beginning of the story we come upon John's fundamental literary device,


which I call doubling. We've already mentioned it. We've already found it in the prologue between Jesus and Moses, and Jesus and John, too. The Baptist is going to be contrasted, John the Baptist is contrasted not only with Jesus, but also with another character, and that's the disciple whom we're going to find referred to as the disciple whom Jesus loved, the so-called beloved disciple, who in tradition is identified with John, with the apostle John, and with the writer of the fourth gospel. Now the biblical critics today take that all apart, but we don't care. We can go with that. Because that's the way the gospel presents it. No matter what the historical diversity of authors and so on and people there may have been, the gospel presents it that way. That's the way we're to take it, so we'll take it that way. It's a question of the symbolic meaning which is conferred upon both Johns, John the Baptist, and then the other John, who is the beloved disciple for us. One represents, as it were,


the shadow, the foreshadowing, and the other the full light. The light which is not any longer just in Jesus, but somehow has been given, the light which has been given, so that John the beloved disciple is the one who is begotten of God. Those who believed in him to those who received him he gave the power to become children of God, so John the beloved disciple is this child of God, who at the same time has some kind of a nuptial relationship with Jesus, with what's in Jesus, whether that's the wisdom of God or whatever. Hmm? Yeah. And with Mary in a sense. However, notice that Jesus says behold your mother, behold your son. In other words, he doesn't explicitly establish a nuptial relationship between them. Yeah, it goes beyond that. Also you see them on two sides of the cross, don't you, in the icons. In other words, John the beloved disciple and Mary,


the two sides of the cross, as if representing the masculine and the feminine, you could almost say that grace and truth, which we found in the prologue, okay, which are poured out. The fullness of Jesus, which is also an expectant presence, the unfulfillment and the fullness fulfillment, somehow symbolizing those two figures. We have to be careful when we talk about John and Mary because one thing is Mary and the other thing is who she represents, what she represents, which we can identify in a way with Sophia. Or you can call it the femininity of God in some sense, but it's that imminent divinity which is poured out, I believe, ultimately. And John is the one who contains it. John is the one into whom it's poured, to whom it's given, the beloved disciple. The one who contains somehow Christ in his fullness and therefore is kind of androgynous, is kind of an integration of masculine and feminine. Even his relationship with Jesus seems to point to that. The Baptist represents the fullness of Jewish religion


in the Old Testament times and continuing to the time of the Gospel. The beloved disciple represents, in contrast, the new fullness which is manifested and poured out in Jesus, the new imminent fullness, its inside, its interior, of divine life and communion, which is expressed most completely in John's Gospel and in his first letter. The first letter is another key. Besides the prologue, you've got the first letter as a key to reading John's Gospel. And it's as if it's poured out of this imminent experience. It's simply the experience of the fullness of communion, which the Gospel is talking about in a narrative form. So John preaches a kind of new exodus, a way out. Remember the people go out into the desert. They go out from Jerusalem, from the cities, into the desert to be baptized by John. As if they were, Moses was calling them out of Egypt once again to be baptized in the Red Sea as the initiation of a new life, which is merely a foreshadowing. Now John leads out and Jesus leads in.


And he leads in in a very profound way. John leads out of the old. John himself, in some way, represents the death, the banishing, the withering of the old, the paling of the old as the sun rises of the new. And Jesus represents the entrance, the coming in. He represents and gives, confers that creation, which is an imminent creation. We can't say that too many times in our work. A unitive creation in which God is within the creation. The creation is within God. God is within man. Man is within God. That's what the Last Supper discourse is about. And much of the symbolism of the narrative is pointing in that direction, especially the in-breathing of the spirit in John 20. So John the Baptist leads out, as it were, leading out into the desert. And from that desert, Jesus leads back in. He leads into the promised land. But the promised land is simply you. It's your body. So it's necessary, though, to go out, first of all,


into the desert. You can't just go... You can't just go in, no, because we're stuck somehow. We're saturated. We're filled. We're addicted. We're hung up. We have to be... Remember how, in the old scheme of the spiritual life, you had these three phases. The purgative phase, the illuminative phase, and the unitive phase. You can't have the unitive phase first. You've got to have the purgative phase first. The vessel which is to be filled has to be emptied first. The vessel has to be purified. The whole doctrine of John of the Cross, you know, the ascent of Mount Carmel, even the symmetry of the book, the architecture of the works of John of the Cross is like that. The emptying out and the ascent of Mount Carmel, and then finally the filling and the living flame. There's a Trinitarian pattern here, too. So somehow the purgation has to happen first, and that's what John is about. In fact, that's what the whole of the Old Testament religion is about, as far as John's gospel is concerned. That's the way it looks at it. It's a kind of purification. We'll see that symbolized in those six vessels full of water at the wedding feast of Cana, remember? The six vessels,


stone vessels, were full of water for the purifications of the Jews, as if the whole thing, the whole of the Jewish religion were that purification, the filling of the vessels with water, and whatever that water symbolizes. And then Jesus comes and turns it to wine, and makes it somehow an imminent fact, a mixing of beings, a mingling. When we talk about love, that's what we're talking about in some way. But we'll use a lot of words for other words before we get to the word love. This expression Lamb of God, which John the Baptist uses to identify Jesus, is going to take on a rich significance as we find this theme of the shepherds and the sheep coming out later on in John's Gospel. And also in connection with the Passover background for the crucifixion of Jesus, for the passion and death of Jesus. Remember, Jesus is the Paschal Lamb. But the Lamb also means something else.


Dodd points that out in his book. Remember, in the book of Revelation, the Lamb is not simply a sacrificed animal, is it? In the book of Revelation, the Lamb is a lion, the Lamb is the victor, is the triumphant eschatological figure who comes. The Lamb is the victorious king in the book of Revelation. He's the one who comes at the end and dominates everything, wins everything. So there are two sides to that. The second side, we haven't much investigated. As Dodd says, the horned Lamb, or Ram, is an apocalyptic figure for the divinely appointed leader of the people of God. And not just on a kind of terrestrial level, but on a level of heavenly power. Now we get to this. I apologize for not reading the text aloud, but I'm just trying to save time. I have come, I did not know him, but for this I have come baptizing with water that he might be revealed to Israel. And John bore witness, I saw the Spirit descend as a dove from heaven and remained on him.


Where else do you find the dove in the Bible? Noah's Ark. Noah's Ark. Okay. That's in the book of Genesis, isn't it? And the flood and Noah's Ark is like a movement from the first creation, which has become befouled, which has become defiled and contaminated, to a new creation. To a new creation. And the dove here obviously represents the Spirit, because John says so. The Spirit descends on Jesus, and the new creation is characterized by the eminence of the Spirit. Now notice that Noah passed over water too, okay? So we're going to find that passage over water or through water to be extremely important in John's Gospel. It's right at the center of the Gospel. And remember, that was the Passover too. That is, the Jews had to cross the Red Sea, as well as the desert. The movement from the old creation to the new creation somehow passes through water. And that has all...


We'll see what the resonances of that are later for us, including, centrally for us, baptism. But remember that the first creation is pictured in Genesis as happening where? The Spirit hovering over the waters, right? The Spirit was over the chaos, over the chaotic waters at the first moment of creation. So there's not only Passover here, but underneath Passover there's creation. There's not only Exodus here, but underneath the Exodus layer there's a creation layer. And that, I think, is the final layer. That's what it's about. Who is it? I had a good quote about that. About the creation level of the dove. Can't find it. It's funny that John repeats this.


I did not know him. I did not know him. As if John is outside in some way. And it's that way in the other Gospels too in the synoptics. He sent his disciples to ask of Jesus, is he the one that is to come? You wonder, because John certainly recognized Jesus. He knew who he was. Maybe he had his moments of doubt. In some way, he's represented as being outside. Outside this blessed circle, sort of, of the knowledge which is the kingdom itself. He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain. This is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. So I baptize with water, he'll baptize with the Holy Spirit. Same contrast that you have between the water and the wine. Cana. The wine is the water with the Spirit inside it somehow. It's an incarnation, as it were, of the Spirit, which is this eminent divinity in us. Now, we started to talk about chiasm in the Prologue. Now we've got a chiasm in the Gospel too. Those pages that I gave you are from Ellis. The single page is Ellis' the name of his book


is The Genius of John. And what he proposes is that the whole of John's Gospel is arranged chiasm. We've got a couple of other copies of this so there should be one on the shelf, the glass shelf over in the library. His proposal is that the whole of John's Gospel is structured chiastically. That is that the beginning matches the end. And so it is with everything else. If you look at this single page, you'll see basically a structure like this, right? And down here you've got what he calls Part 3. Hold on, hold on. Up here you've got Part 1. Here's 2. Here's 3. I don't know why there's a midnight chart here.


Part 4 and Part 5. So this part matches this part. This part matches this part. This is the center and nothing matches it, okay? And the center for him is going to be John 6, 16 to 21, which he calls the New Exodus. And what's that? It's a passage over water. It's a passage over water. It's where the disciples have gone out. After the multiplication of the bread by Jesus, the disciples have gone out on the boat and they're going across the lake and the wind is blowing and they're rowing hard. And Jesus comes quite late. It's early in the morning. The sun's not up yet. He comes walking on the water, walking on the water towards them. I think I mentioned this last time. I'll probably mention it every time. And they're scared. And he says, Do not be afraid. It is I. But what he really says is do not be afraid. I am. I am. And he gets in the boat and immediately when he gets in the boat they're at the far shore. Now for Ellis,


that's the center of the gospel. And he interprets that as the new Passover, the new going across the Red Sea. As you move from, as it were, the first world to the second world. But what he doesn't bring out is that that is also the new creation. That I am statement of Jesus is as it were the moment when the spirit was over the water at the beginning of the creation, at the beginning of Genesis and when the new creation is born. And they take him into the boat and it recalls for us what was in the prologue. It says actually in John 6 that they received him into the boat and were glad. To those who received him he gave the power to become the children of God. So that represents that moment of conception of being begotten by God which is also the moment of first creation. The moment of faith, the moment of receiving of Jesus, the moment where Jesus gets into your boat and which is also the beginning of the whole creation. The entrance even into the first creation in some way because Jesus is the I am out of which the first creation comes. So there's


an exodus level and beneath the exodus level there's a creation level. A new creation level. And that's what John's Gospel is about. Anyhow, what I wanted to point out here is the chiastic structure of the whole of John's Gospel. Now you can have a lot of fun with this if you trace the Gospel and just check out what Ellis is saying here. What you have on the single page is his outline for the whole Gospel. What you have in the pages that are stapled together there is that part of his introduction in which he justifies and explains his chiastic treatment of John. But the whole book is a carrying out of that project of analyzing the whole Gospel of John in his chiastic form. This he finds not only in the Gospel as a whole but also in each individual section of the Gospel. So much so that it gets tedious after a while. I mean, it just goes on and on and on. It doesn't seem to have enough meaning. So we'll wrestle with that later. Next time I'd like to talk about this chiasm of Ellis's and then we'll go on from there to something else. What do you think?


Do you think this is the center of the Gospel? Yes. That's what works best for me. And it works best not just because it works out matching these things up but because it's got such a deep penetration. In other words, it goes right through to the first moment, the first moment of creation. And it's in the darkness there. And it's as if when Jesus says, I am, that's the first moment when light is created out of darkness. God said that it was good and the disciples were glad. There's a kind of an individual neurosis that I have about this but it can pull you in in that way if you stay with it. And then everything fits together around that. After you find that point and if you develop this chiasm so that the whole thing begins opening like a flower for the whole of John's Gospel into the seven days of creation. So we'll see that in a week or two. I have a question. Is there a significance in the fact that when he's walking on the water about the time that he arrives more or less they hit land and I don't know if he ever got a boat or if they hit land. Well, the way John's Gospel puts it


you can read it in several ways. The way that I read it is that they got to the land because he got in the boat. Oh. Yeah. In other words there's a kind of short circuit of time and space there. It's as if that the picture is this way that at that moment when he says I am and when he gets into the boat it's interesting that not that they go to him in a sense but that they receive him in the boat he receives him. At that moment that I am that's the central point. It's like the central point of each other the central point of the creation and time and space and everything else disappears and sort of fused together into that point. So I read it in that way. It seems very strange that they should be immediately at the shore. Yeah. But I read it as being part of the sign part of the miracle. Not only just walking on the water but the immediate arrival. As if at that point everything comes together and from that center that's the center you immediately reach every point from that center you immediately reach the in fact every episode


of the gospel has that center within it I believe. The first moment of creation is inside every other event every other episode all from one point of the gospel. So in that sense also different things open up. But it's part of the sign. There's no doubt because it's what it said it seemed to be quite clear to Thomas Jeremy you said it and it made it difficult because there are people who have to extend away. Just like they explain how was it when Jesus was walking on the water in the other gospel they explained the water is shallow over there and he's really walking on it and he's walking on the ground and he's a disciple of Christ. There's a whole sphere of things that are active. Okay, what I wanted to point out before this long rigamarole was that the dove and the speech about the baptism of the Holy Spirit in John 1 matches


up with something in John 20 which is Jesus breathing the Holy Spirit into his disciples after the resurrection. That is the baptism of the Holy Spirit as foretold by John the Baptist. And then we'll find a bunch of other things coming together like that too from the beginning and the end of the gospel. Okay, we finish with the John the Baptist narrative here and there's a kind of transmission of the disciples of John the Baptist to Jesus. The disciples of John become the disciples of Jesus. And I think it's very important here to let yourself be grabbed by the magic of this narrative. In other words, when Jesus begins to attract his first disciples, it's tremendous. Just read that dialogue and let it sink into you. So John points him out and says, Behold the Lamb of God. And the two disciples heard him say this and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, What do you seek? Which goes far beyond any ordinary


question. It's a very, very deep question. What do you seek? And you'll find the same question coming up actually in John 20, I think, when Magdalene is looking for Jesus' body. And he asks the woman, What are you seeking? Or is it the angels that ask her? It turns up there. And they said to him, Rabbi, which means teacher, she calls him Rabboni in John 20. Where are you staying? Now what it really says is, I think it's poumenes or something like that in Greek, but it's that word for dwelling. Where do you dwell? And the verb menene, you've got it in your vocabulary list there, occurs again and again and again in John with a very deep meaning. It's got some kind of unitive meaning, some kind of indwelling meaning. It's the word that John uses at the Last Supper in the discourse there. So it's not only where you're living, but it's somehow, where are you? Where are you rooted? Where are you standing? Where are you dwelling? Now where is


Jesus dwelling? Well, according to John, he's dwelling in the bosom of the Father, right? At the end of the prologue of John. The only son, he was in the bosom of the Father. He is opened away, they read. So this is resonating back with the prologue in that way and also resonating with the end of the Gospel. And he said to them, come and see. Those words too, marvelous, marvelous those words, come and see. It sounds like Sophia, it sounds like the wisdom of the Old Testament. Notice you've got two phases there, you've got to come and then you'll see. Come first and then you'll see. You've got to walk, you've got to move. It also resonates somewhat with the two healing miracles of Jesus and John, which we're going to find match up chiastically, they match up in our symmetrical pattern. The first one being the healing of the paralytic who couldn't move, couldn't come, couldn't walk. And then the healing of the blind man. Those two match up, they're both on the Sabbath, they both correspond symmetrically in the structure of the Gospel. And we'll find


that there's a sign of Jesus too that there's a growing kind of consistency and significance that gradually increases, becomes more conclusive. Come and see. They came and saw where he was staying and they stayed with him that day for it was about the tenth hour. Then you have this sequence of disciples and Peter here is not given an awful lot of relief. He gets a lot of attention in John 21 but he doesn't get much here. And he's the one who makes the great confession in John 6. He says, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. But here it's almost in passing. You're a Simon, the son of John, you shall be called Cephas, which means Peter, which means rock, as our footnotes tell us. And then he finds the others and finally comes to Nathanael and Nathanael gets quite a long section of the narrative here. Nathanael's a doubter. Now the chiastic connection here is with Thomas in John 21.


Remember Thomas is the holdout in John 21. He's the one who's not there when the disciples first see Jesus and he says, I ain't going to believe. He says, I won't believe unless I see the wounds on his hands and his feet and so on, put my hand on his side. So there's a deliberate mirroring here between these two situations and between the sequence, as it were, the week in the beginning here between the first disciples and Nathanael and the week at the end between the other disciples and Thomas. And the confession of Nathanael and the confession of Thomas mirror one another. Nathanael says, Rabbi, you're the son of God, you're the king of Israel, with double exclamation, and Thomas cries out, my Lord and my God. We found him of whom Moses and the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. Can anything good come out of Nazareth? Philip says to him, come and see. Same words that Jesus used. So Jesus saw Nathanael coming


to him and said to him, behold an Israelite indeed in whom there is no God. Mysterious words until we find the Old Testament connection. Nathanael said to him, how do you know me? Jesus answered him, before Philip called you when you were under the fig tree, I saw you. Nathanael answered him, that's enough to convince him. He says, Rabbi, you're the son of God, you're the king of Israel. And Jesus says, because you believe because I told you that, but behold you're going to see the heavens open and the angels ascending and descending upon the Son of Man. Now this whole thing has an Old Testament background which is in Genesis 28 where Jacob goes to Haran. Jacob's dream of the ladder at Haran which he then names Bethel. There's an emphasis on the place. Notice how important the place where Nathanael was under the fig tree is in this narrative. And where do you dwell, that whole


thing about the place. Wherever this place is, there's a tree growing there. Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, surely the Lord is in this place and I did not know it. But Jesus did know Nathanael in his place. And he was afraid and said, how awesome is this place. This is none other than the house of God and this is the gate of heaven. Now that obviously is reflected by Nathanael's explanation. This is the house of God, this is the gate of heaven. Nathanael says, you are the son of God, you are the king of Israel. Now this continual Old Testament background reference is a thing you have to be aware of all the time in John. Enormously. You can't really hear what John is saying unless you're awake to it. And it takes a good deal of study to find out where it points in each case. Just read 28, the whole thing. Doesn't that also have some kind of


reverberation of Jesus' response to maybe the Sanhedrin before them, during the Passover, when he says, you know, a man will see the heavens open and see the power of God. That's in John too, isn't it? There is. There is. You know, here, with Nathanael, you know, you have the man of faith, there you have the opposite. Of course, Nathanael was the holdout too, he was the resistor, but here he is the man of faith. There you've got the opposite. Well, he collapsed sort of suddenly, but he held out there. He even questioned Jesus and he said, well, how do you know me? He didn't seem to immediately surrender as the others did. So he's like Thomas in that way. Yeah, there is that connection, which I haven't looked into. Now,


I've got a quote from Dodd here. Dodd was pretty good, pretty deep on John. The mysterious language about the open heaven and the ascending and descending angels is to be understood, as I showed somewhere I did, on the basis of Jewish exegesis of Jacob's vision. So, somewhere in the rabbinical literature there is a Jewish interpretation of Jacob's vision, in which it's brought into connection with the Isaian servant of the Lord. That's in Second Isaiah, the servant, the suffering servant. The Son of Man, like the servant, is the inclusive representative of the true Israel of God, upon whom the glory rests. The angels of the glory go to and fro, keeping the heavenly and the earthly in perpetual unity. The language is highly mythological and symbolic. Its meaning could otherwise be expressed in two phrases of the prologue. The monogamous, that is the only born in the bosom of the Father, and the logos made flesh. That connection between the


heavenly and the earthly. The whole series of signs, which follows in John, culminating in the supreme sign of the cross and resurrection, is the vision of the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man. Whatever else, therefore, the Gospel story is to be, it is to be a realized apocalypse. The point is that this is not a particular thing that's going to happen, a particular moment of, say, transfiguration experience, but the whole of Jesus' earthly life and the signs of Jesus in particular, according to God, are supposed to be this sight of the heavens opened and the angels ascending and descending. You can debate that. That's his view of it. Now, what about this fig tree, and what about this ladder? We talked about centering before in John. We talked about it in the prologue. We find it here when he says, what do you seek? And they say, where are you staying? Where do you dwell? And he says, come and see. We're following that line of the center. We're looking for the central


place. That's maybe where Jesus plants the rock when he says, you shall be called Cephas, which means rock. Now here, we've got this fig tree, which presumably is in a garden, and we've got this ladder at this place, which Jacob says is the house of God and the gate of heaven. Now this is the central place of the universe. This is the cosmic tree, this thing. You can read about the cosmic tree in mythology, which joins the earthly and the heavenly, which joins the divine and the created, in our biblical language. And this cosmic tree is not only a place where Jesus is, but it is Jesus. In other words, it's identified with him in some way. Jesus is the ladder. Jesus is the tree. The fig tree of Nathaniel seems to be kind of foreshadowing of that. Nathaniel must have had some experience, which reflected that centrality of that place. Some experience, perhaps, of an anonymous experience


of Jesus as that cosmic tree, which unites the heavens and the earth. Now, cosmic tree is just another word for incarnation. It's just a symbolic word for that unitive joining of divine and human, and created, as it were, which we have in the incarnation. But see how the symbolism and the meaning explicit. Remember the cross is a tree. And if you look in Paul and Ephesians and Colossians, you'll find an enormous expansion of that meaning of the tree and its four limbs. So, there we are. Jesus is in the center, and that's the center at which everything is brought together. Now, that doesn't quite conclude this cycle here, because I think it's concluded with Cana. Let's look at the wedding feast at Cana. And here,


I have to apologize again, because we can do nothing like justice to this, but we'll come back to it when we talk about the other episodes in which John encounters a woman in the gospel. On the third day, there was a marriage at Cana in Galilee. Now, these times are very important. I've got an article by Mrs. Benedict Trudinger, Paul Trudinger, it was in Downside the View, where he talks about the third day and points out that this is not the seventh day of the week, but the sixth day of the new here is, in the second chapter, is the week of the new creation symbolically represented with the wedding feast at Cana on the sixth day of this week of the new creation. What happened on the sixth day of creation in Genesis 1? Except the bridegroom is mentioned when they take the wine to it. So, Jesus and his mother, their presence is very significant here. It's as if they are archetypically, they are behind the scenes and symbolically and deeply the bride


and the groom here. Now, what is represented by the new Israel, which is the church more likely, is it Sophia? Over on the divine side, is it something about God? Is it some kind of manifestation, some kind of outpouring, some kind of presence of God, which is signified by the mother of Jesus? I already climbed to that. That it's Sophia of the Old Testament. And further than that, it's a feminine manifestation of God himself, which is symbolized in the wine, too. So the wine and the wedding are one thing. The wine and the wedding are one thing. The symbolic unity of masculine and feminine in the wedding somehow is a symbolic representation of the same thing that's symbolized by the wine, which is made from the water, which is


an imminent fullness, the fullness of the sixth day when God's work is complete, and in which he can rest, and in which we can rest. And it's like the pouring out of that grace and truth, which the Korah tells us about, grace and the truth, the feminine and masculine as it were, of God's self-communication. This is perceived as being done at the time just near when the Passover was to be celebrated, because they say when you go into the temple, the Jewish cathedral was near. We don't know how much time will last between the two. But the illusion that it was just preceding... It could be. And of course that too would hold significance because this wine is connected to the Passover. It's the fruit of the death of Jesus. We'll see that better when


we get to our structural arrangement of John. We'll see how one of those follows the other. In fact, the fifth day of creation, in the pattern that I want to propose to you, is the death of Jesus, is the life-death thing, the cross. And the sixth day is the outpour. The sixth day is the sixth day of the new creation, which is the creation of humanity in its fullness, symbolized by man and woman, in which woman represents more the eminent, the interior, and man the exterior. And therefore woman, and also grace, the feminine. And therefore the wine and the feminine go together here. It's really hard to do justice to this thing because it calls for poetry or music or something instead of just a kind of prosaic exegesis. But it's as if John has brought together here two sort of ecstatic moments in human life. One is the moment of love, the moment of, let's say, honeymoon or nuptial falling in love. It's that opening up sort of a new


creation which happens when man and woman are in love and which so easily fades in this world. The other ecstatic moment seems kind of ironic, but it's what wine means. It's that sense of openness and freedom and even communion and the breaking of boundaries and limitations and freedom which is conferred somehow by wine. Now John has brought those two moments here together to signify this new creation and its various dimensions. So it really jumps right out of any kind of prosaic exposition, interpretation. And all I can suggest is that you stay with it and keep reading it, keep reading it more and more in the light of its context, its background, also in the Old Testament. Also you can read Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, that chapter about the death of Zosima and the funeral of Zosima, the funeral of Alyosha Starits, the spiritual father, when the


body is beginning to corrupt and when the priest is reading the gospel of the wedding feast of Cana over the body. And Alyosha has this tremendous kind of unitive experience and he goes out and falls upon the ground and starts crying, starts crying. Dostoevsky says that when he fell to his knees, when he fell upon the ground he was a boy and when he rose he was a man. So somehow that's the moment at which everything pulls together for him because somehow he's realized this, whatever it is that John means about incarnation and about grace at this moment in this wedding feast of Cana. There's something here about the saving of creation which has got, let us say, the fullness of Catholicism in some way. The creation is saved not just by the skin of its teeth. It's not


saved by the sort of with white knuckles. It's not saved just marginally. It doesn't squeeze by. It's not a kind of Jansenistic nearest kind of grace that gets you out of the pit and into heaven. But it's a wedding feast. It's like the prodigal son, remember, where what the eldest son I think really resents is that music, is that happiness that's going on inside the house. He can't stand the sound of that music and dancing. He says, well, at least he could have brought him back and accepted him and been mean to him for a while. But no, the whole thing has exploded into this party, into this merrymaking. And that's what salvation is. And that's what John is bringing out. And we don't expect to find that exactly in that way in the Gospels. But John has got a sense of it like nobody else in the New Testament. We'd better not take any longer this morning. I would just


leave that with you. I think that the wine and the marriage are the same thing. And what they both are is going to emerge as we go on and keep studying John's Gospel. I particularly recommend to you, and we'll see that the three other episodes, or four other episodes in which Jesus and a woman encounter one another in John's Gospel, the next one we'll see will be Jesus and the Samaritan woman in John 4. Then there'll be Jesus and Mary Bethany who anoints his feet in John 11 or 12. Then there's the cross and you've got three women around and they're all named Mary. And the only other person that's mentioned there is the beloved disciple. And then finally in John 20 with Mary Magdalene who is hunting for the body of Jesus. Remember when she's come upon the open tomb. And he encounters her in the garden. Okay, so I suggest a kind of reflection on those episodes when you are so disposed together because they're all, in a way, they're all one thing. They're expressing different facets, different moments of


one reality. And there's a line that runs between the prologue, between a unitive revelation in the prologue of the Logos, the unit of God, and this wedding feast. And there's a line that runs between the actual expression in human sexuality of the union. There's a line that runs between those two, which is scandalous for us, which has a great deal to do with what John is saying and with what Christianity is about. It can be misinterpreted in a hundred ways, but it's there. We can't shake it off. It's there. Okay, that's enough. That's good. If you read the prologue, you get a hint of why he may have done it, because he presents Jesus immediately in his fullness. He starts in the beginning with the Word, and the Word was with God. He doesn't need or


doesn't find it necessary to show you the approaches towards the thing. He just puts it right out there. And I think he's aware that those other Gospels are there for him. That's why I pointed it out. He doesn't need to recount that history, because all that he wants to say is presented from the point of view of the fullness of Jesus. Okay? Everything John wants to say centers around and emerges from this fullness of Jesus, and he doesn't want to show you anything less than the fullness. That's already there somehow in the other accounts. I think that's probably it. Okay, so next time we'll talk about the chiasm thing, and I think read the Gospel of this Samaritan woman in John 4 for next time. All right.