Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Plumbing the Depths of John's Gospel

Augustine reportedly said that John's gospel is deep enough for an elephant to swim, and shallow enough for a child not to drown. The more I read this gospel, the more I concur with St. Augustine. Our small group is just starting to study through the gospel. Tonight we talked a bit about the purpose of the gospel, and delved into the prologue (1:1-18). As I studied the passage this past week, I was amazed by the number of allusions to Exodus 33-34 in John 1:14-18. I tend to be reticent of taking an intertextual echo and making it the key to interpreting a passage. However, the allusions here are numerous and unmistakable. Andreas Kostenberger (pictured above) provides a helpful chart which demonstrates as much;

Exodus 33-34

1. Israel finds grace in Yahweh’s sight (33:14)
2. No one can see Yahweh’s face and live (33:20)
3. Yahweh’s glory passes by Moses (33:23-34:6-7)
4. Yahweh abounds in lovingkindness and truth (34:6)
5. Yahweh dwelt in a tent (33:7)
6. Moses was given the law (34:27-28)
7. Moses mediator between Yahweh, Israel (34:32-35)

John 1:14-18

1. Disciples receive “grace instead of grace” (1:16)
2. No one has seen God at any time (1:18)
3. The disciples beheld the Word’s glory (1:14)
4. Jesus is full of grace and truth (1:14, 17)
5. The Word “tented” among the disciples (1:14)
6. The law was given through Moses (1:17)
7. Jesus, mediator between God and man (1:17-18)

- Encountering John: The Gospel in Historical, Literary, and Theological Perspective (EBS: Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999); 52.

There is much worthy of reflection in these verses. The Israelites had a mediator who could not behold the glory of God. We behold a mediator who is the glory of God. The Israelites understood God through laws written on stone. We know God the Father through his unique son, Jesus Christ. We receive in Christ the abounding love and faithfulness that constitutes God's name (cf. Ex 34:6-7). We need not enter a tabernacle, because the tabernacle has come to us. I think my wife summed it up well tonight; "I'm so thankful to be living on this side of history."

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