Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Ruminations on John 14 and Some Eugene Peterson

Tonight at our community group we discussed John 14. The chapter is part of Jesus' farewell discourse (i.e. chs. 13-17), a section rife with material for theological reflection. I spent the preponderance of my time in grad school studying Paul, so it's been refreshing to camp out in John's gospel for the past few months. As I prepared for the study, I had the following thoughts...

1. I'm surprised how many commentators construe Jesus' statement in 14:2-3 as a straightforward reference to the Second Advent, and blithely dismiss alternative interpretations. The remainder of the chapter has to do with post-Easter realities, hence it doesn't seem implausible that Jesus is speaking of something the disciples will experience through the cross/resurrection/coming of the Spirit. Perhaps Jesus prepares a place for the disciples in heaven through union with him, and their experience of this event is mediated by the indwelling Spirit of the risen Christ. The use of "dwelling" language in the chapter also lends credibility to this interpretation (cf. vv. 2, 23).

2. The cross looms large in the background of John 14:6.

3. Love is obedience (14:15, 21, 23, 31). Do I love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength? I do only insofar as I obey the commands of Jesus.

4. Jesus words are elliptical. They do not follow a neat outline. However, Christ's non-linear manner of speaking draws the disciples (and us) into the life of the Trinity. Eugene Peterson states it nicely;

The conversation is rambling and unsystematic. This is not what we ordinarily think of as good teaching. But Jesus is not making things clear, smoothing out ambiguities; he is making them vivid, pulsing. There is no outline and there are no transitions. Definitions are lacking. What the conversation does is immerse us in the presence of another, the presence of Jesus readying us for the Spirit. We are soon listening more to who he is than what he says; we are drawn into this seamless web of relational attentiveness, leaving and sending, sensing within ourselves the pervasive, soul-permeating continuity between the absent Jesus and the present Spirit.

Christ Plays in 10,000 Places: A Conversation in Spiritual Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005); 237.

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