22 August 2013

John: 7 Signs and 7 I AM statements

I was interrupted in writing this post and never got back to it. I don't think it includes all my study notes. If I find them, I may revise.
I post it now only because it's part of a series.

It's a holiday weekend and with so many people out of town, I will once again be teaching the Open Door Class at Southwest Central Church of Christ. We've been studying the gospel of John making use of a book by Peter Ellis, The Genius of John, A Compositional-Critical Commentary on the Fourth Gospel, 1984.

We'll be discussing John 4:46-54, the second sign: Jesus heals the nobleman's son.
In Dr. Ellis' chiasmic scheme, the corresponding text is John 9:1 - 10:21: Jesus heals the man born blind.

As we have been learning the fourth gospel is a highly structured, non-chronological book. It may be divided into two major sections: The Book of Signs (1:19 - 12:50) and The Book of Glory. The gospel presents 7 Signs, 7 "I AM" statements, 7 discourses, and 7 misunderstood symbols.
There are 7 Signs (each corresponding to an "I AM" Statement. A sign is a bit different from a miracle in that it's purpose is to reveal, to make manifest Jesus' glory/deity and it results in belief. All commentaries agree on 6 signs but there is debate about the 7th:
    1. turns water into wine at Cana                 I AM the true vine
    2. heals the nobleman's son  in Cana          I AM the way, the truth, the life
    3. heals paralytic at pool of  Bethesda        I AM the door to the sheepfold
    4. feeds the 5,000                                           I AM the bread of life
    5. heals the man, blind since birth              I AM the light of the world
    6. raises Lazarus in Bethany                       I AM the Resurrection and the Life
Some commentaries name walking on the water as the 7th sign; others say that the 7th sign is Jesus' own Resurrection which would  correspond with I AM the good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep.

Ignoring these textual debates, it is safe to say that chapters 2-4 are marked as a unit by the Inclusio of "signs" and the location in Cana of Galilee. The section marks the responses to Jesus in Cana of Galilee, in Jerusalem, in Samaria, and again in Cana and Capernaum in Galilee.  Key concepts are signs, seeing, and believing.
  • John 1 The Baptist's testimony, trans-Jordan, water, purification, Spirit, Pharisees
  • John 1:35 "come and see" "follow me"
  • John 2 the wedding feast at Cana of Galilee, water, purification, wine, "the last is better than the first," the first sign to "manifest his glory," disciples believe
  • John 2:13 Jerusalem, Temple, What sign? authority, believed, testimony not needed
  • John 3 Discourse with Nicodemus, water, Spirit, Jesus testifies to himself, came from God, 3:19 echoes prologue.
  • John 3:22 Judea, baptizing, water, purification, the Baptist testified, "comes from heaven"
  • John 4 leaves Judea (because the Pharisees see baptizing more than the Baptist), to Samaria, discourse with woman at the well, living water, spirit & truth, woman says "come and see," believed and asked to stay
  • John 4:46 back in Cana, a Royal Officer asks Jesus to "come and heal," Jesus will not go with him but he speaks life for the child.  Jesus physical presence is not required for the miracle; his spoken word is sufficient. That identifies him as the creating Logos. The officer and his household believe. 
As Nicodemus represents the Pharisees, the teachers of Israel in Jerusalem and as the Samaritan woman represents all those erring worshippers scorned by the Jews, the Royal Officer or nobleman from Capernaum represents "the house of Herod," secular Israel. All these people "come" to Jesus. The Samaritan woman and her city believe. The nobleman and his household believe. At this point in the story Nicodemus does not and beginning in Chapter 5, the Pharisees and leaders of Israel in Jerusalem will begin an attack the culminates in the Crucifixion.

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