Sunday, April 10, 2022

What is Holy Week and Easter without the Gospel of John?

Just as hot cross buns are nothing much to taste without sultanas and diced dried apricots [my faves for this year's homemade buns], so are the Gospel accounts of the events of Holy Week and Easter if we imagine only having Matthew, Mark and Luke and no John.

Here are a few of the ways in which John enriches us (if not entrances us with loads of puzzles):

- a key event is Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, an event not even hinted out in the other Gospels (John 11);

- John tells the anointing of Jesus by a woman differently (but with enough similarities for us to accept that it is the same anointing): "six days before Passover" (not two); at the home of Lazarus (not Simon); with the anointing woman named, Mary (not anonymous);

- John's Last Supper is devoid of elements of "the institution of the Lord's Supper" narrative, otherwise made known to us not only in Matthew, Mark and Luke, but also in 1 Corinthians 11:17-31;

- Only in John's Last Supper is a ceremony of foot washing narrated;

- And there is the somewhat oodles of doctoral theses generating challenge of John's chronology re his timing of the Passover: the Synoptics place the Last Supper on the evening of Passover (so Jesus dies the next day, during Passover), whereas John times Jesus' death to occur when the lambs for the Passover meal are being slaughtered (19:14), so the Last Supper is not actually a Passover meal;

- only John supplies the so-called Farewell Discourses through his chapters 14-17;

- then there are his Resurrection Narratives, though we can note that when it comes to Resurrection Narratives, there are considerable divergences across all four Gospels: only John tells us of Jesus' encounter with Mary Magdalene, Thomas, and Peter and the Beloved Disciple.

Now my point here is not rehearse things likely well known to readers of ADU but to note that I am delighted this Holy Week and Easter to have the assistance of a new commentary on John's Gospel.

David F. Ford is a renowned British theologian and tells us at the beginning of The Gospel of John: A Theological Commentary Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2021) that he has been working on this book for a couple of decades (p. vii). 

At the end of the commentary, as he discusses at greater length the people and books that have influenced him and been conversational partners with him, he mentions an opportunity in 2009 to engage in a "sustained conversation around John that has acted as an inspiration and a benchmark. Richard Bauckham had retired from St Andrews University to Cambridge and Richard Hays was in Cambridge for a six month sabbatical. We put twenty-one three-hour sessions in our diaries, and the three of us read the whole Gospel together" (p. 439-40). Oh, to be a fly on the wall ... 

Like all commentaries, there is much to look up on specific passages and their associated puzzles and controversies, and I intend to do that over the next week re the kinds of matters I have listed above. It could be a bit boring, however, from a blogging perspective, to list all the things he says (even if each is interesting in its own right) so I will simply finish here with his opening paragraph, not least because I have never previously thought of his summary description of John's Gospel before, though it is one of those brilliant, lovely insights that are completely obvious (especially if we think of John 10:10 as both a summary of Jesus' intended mission and as the centre/middle of the Gospel)!

From page 1, my bold:

From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace" (John 1:16). John is a Gospel of abundance. The prologue first sounds this note; the first sign that Jesus does turns a huge amount of water into good wine: the Spirit is a wind that blows where it will and is given "without measure" (3:34); the "living water" that Jesus gives is "a spring of water gushing up to eternal life" (4:14); when Jesus feeds five thousand with five loaves, there are twelve baskets of fragments left over; through Jesus there is abundance of glory, healing, light, life, trugh, fruitfulness, joy, and love; the last sign that Jesus does brings about a large catch of big fish; and John's closing sentence responds to the impossible task of writing all that could be said about what Jesus did: "if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written" (21:25).

There is, indeed, an abundance in this commentary of things to be enriched by. 

May all readers of ADU have an enriched, abundant Holy Week and Paschal Festival full of meaning and significance.

Bonus Feature:

This is my recipe for Hot Cross buns (using a breadmaker, in my case a rather recent and IMHO brilliant Panasonic one):

(in this order in the bread maker)

1 cup of sultanas and diced dried apricots (either in the nifty breadmaker device which releases them automatically at the right time, or added to the dough cycle when your breadmaker signals for that to happen).

3 to 3.5 teaspoons of breadmaker yeast mixture (can this be obtained outside of NZ?)

3.5 cups of high quality flour

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons of soft brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon mixed spice

1 tablespoon oil

270 mls water (with the Panasonic this can be as it comes out of the tap; otherwise slightly warm)

Press start on the "raison dough" cycle

Near the end of the alotted time, prepare a thick flour-and-water mix for the crosses.

Once dough is ready, make eight (possibly nine) balls of dough and place in a container such as a roasting dish and let rise for about 30 - 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, turn oven on to bake at 180 degrees Celsius

Add the crosses to each potential bun

Once 180 degrees is reached:

Place container in the oven for however long it takes to cook the buns.

Option: make a hot syrup from brown sugar and a little water (or brown sugar, honey and a little water).

When the buns are cooked, pour the syrup over the buns (hence the roasting dish as this catches any excess syrup flowing off the buns).

Place the buns on a cooling rack



Father Ron said...

Thank you for this, Bishop Peter. I have just a brief comment: Noting that John was possibly the closest disciple to Jesus - having laid his head on Jesus' breast at the Last Supper and from his self-references as 'the disciple whom Jesus loved - I cannot but accept that he would have been in the very best position to record the sayings and actions of Jesus during their time together. I remember, also (from Scripture), that Jesus requested John to take care of his mother, Mary, after his demise. This would surely have made him privy to Mary's own precious memories of her Son's doings.

I guess that the different recollection in the gospels and epistles would reflect the human variations in remembrance that occurs in every generation. We have a wonderful pot-pourri of testimonies from those whose lives were deeply affected by Jesus' ministry to and with them.

Perhaps we need to factor in the role of the Holy Spirit in each and every account, and to reflect on the contemporaneity and appropriateness of recovered memoranda to find a middle way that can guide and help us on our own journey of faith.

Unknown said...

None of the bible was written in English to C21 Western Christians. So it's not as though three gospels were published by the Times this morning for 13 year olds who understood them and a fourth needs an excuse for being harder.

It's all strange. Most people who have always had bibles in the house and have heard (or given) weekly chats about them for years overestimate how much they know about them.

A book from a foreign language and a remote culture lends itself to comfortable but irrelevant projections from the present. Kirill preached something on Sunday that did not cause a riot in the Kremlin.

The miracle is: a little of Jesus seems to get through to even eavesdroppers who are lazy, distracted, or narcissistic. The documents are about a god, not a religion.


Father Ron said...

Thank you, Bishop Peter, for your presiding presence and your thought-provoking sermon at our SMAA Easter Vigil last evening (Holy Saturday).

One cannot but be impressed by the Evangelical Message of the Vigil ceremonies, wherein the First Fire of Easter is used to ignite the new Paschal Candle, which is then processed into the church with the acclamation "The Light of Christ" - which is acknowledged by the congregation with the words: "Thanks be to God". The chanting of the traditional 'Exultet' - in praise of the Light of Christ in the Paschal Candle - then told the story of our redemption by Christ in his self-offering on the Cross, his death and descent into Hades, and his Resurrection from the Dead; securing the gift of Eternal Life to all who are Baptised into his death and resurrection.

Then, the Baptism at the Font, followed by your action in the Confirmation of two young men, in which the Holy Spirit was invoked upon them, and then poured out upon the whole congregation as we re-affirmed our Baptismal Vows during the Sprinkling of the Waters of the Font upon all of us present. These liturgical actions gave a strong indication of the work of the Holy Spirit amongst us as we re-affirmed our Baptismal Promises together.

This provided a wonderful springboard for the Celebration of the Eucharist (over which you presided); from which we ALL received the further grace of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.

Altogether, a wonderful experience for all of us gathered together to greet our Resurrected Lord and Saviour as the Body of Christ at Saint Michael and All Angels, in our city.

Christ is Risen, Alleluia! He is Risen Indeed? Alleluia, Alleluia!

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Father Ron,
Thank you for your kind words.
It was a lovely and uplifting service.
Happy Easter!