John 19-21

Chapter 19

John’s account of Pilate’s soldiers mocking Jesus agrees with the accounts of Mark and Matthew, and the color of the robe (purple) agrees with Mark, so John likely copied from Mark. Predictably Pilate finds Jesus not guilty and wants to release him – but there is no ‘washing of hands’ or passing the case off in John. Instead there is a conversation between Jesus and Pilate, followed by Pilate giving in to the Jews’ demands for crucifixion. This is ludicrous in historical context – Pilate would never have negotiated with a prisoner or given in to an unruly crowd. And notice the Jew-blaming.

Next, the crucifixion. John’s superhero Jesus carries his own cross in John, unlike all the other gospels. For some reason John makes an issue out of the wording on the sign above Jesus’ head on the cross. The words are similar, but not identical, in all the gospels; who cares? Note that in John, this is taking place before the Passover Seder; in the other gospels it’s after. John is also more specific, citing prophesy about casting lots for Jesus’ clothing (Psalm 22:18); in the other accounts it’s only inferred. (He’s being extra sure that everyone catches the OT references.) There is a group of women standing near the cross (in all other gospels they were watching from afar); their names are different in every gospel; and in John two of them are sisters yet have the same name (Mary) – how ridiculous is that? The mocking bystanders taunting Jesus to come down from the cross, and the conversation between him and the men who were crucified along with him, are missing from John.

Compare the death of Jesus across the 4 gospels. The time of day varies. The vile drink that he’s offered is different in all 4, and only John claims he actually drank it (Mark and Matthew say he didn’t, and Luke doesn’t say). Why did he drink it in John? Why, to fulfill scripture, of course! (Psalms 22:15 and 69:21). Note what’s missing in John’s account of Jesus’ death – everything else. No special effects, no crying about being forsaken, no one thinking he’s calling for Elijah, no Romans commenting that he was truly the son of god.

And note also the change in Jesus’ character from the earliest gospel (Mark) to John. In Mark, Jesus suffers human agony, feels deserted, and dies with a loud cry. Matthew is similar, but in Luke he is more serene. There’s no complaint of abandonment; instead he forgives those who crucified him and carries on a conversation with the men on the other crosses. At the end he cries out, not in anguish, but that he commends his spirit to god. In John, SuperJesus is not only serene in his death scene, he is confident. His mission is accomplished. He carries his cross, offers comforting words to his mother and other bystanders, sips vinegar just to make a point, announces that he is finished, and dies quietly without any cry at all. No fuss, no muss – that’s John’s Jesus.

But then – John adds his own embellishments to the death scene – the breaking of legs, and the pierced side (v 31-37). Why would he do this? He was writing around 70 years after Jesus’ supposed death, and several years after the other gospel writers – so if they didn’t know about them, where did these details come from? You should be able to figure out the answer – John found some more scriptures that he could link up! Score two more points for John – Exodus 12:46 and Psalm 34:20 for the bones, and Zechariah 12:10 for the piercing. And if you look up the passage from Exodus, you’ll find another interesting point – why did John change the timing of Jesus’ death to before the Passover meal? Because at Passover a lamb is sacrificed, and in John’s mind, Jesus was the Passover lamb – so he had to be sacrificed before the Seder, not after. It all starts to make sense, doesn’t it? The gospel writers wrote the events to fit prophesy that they wanted to fulfill or scripture that they wanted to parallel – not the other way around.

Now it’s time for burial. All the gospels state that Joseph of Arimathea claimed the body, but John tosses in Nicodemus. I had forgotten this guy. He’s the one to whom Jesus spoke all those quotable quotes in chapter 3, and who spoke up in chapter 7 to remind the leaders that Jesus shouldn’t be convicted without a hearing. He’s not mentioned in any other gospel. But he shows up laden with perfumes to anoint the body and help place it in the tomb. No mention of a stone to cover the opening, anyone watching, or a guard.

Now knock yourselves out trying to reconcile all the gospel stories. And it just got easier – I looked up Barker’s original challenge, and it only applies to the Easter story – so you don’t have to worry about lining up all the events that have happened so far. Just start with the next chapter – the events of Easter Day. Only one day! Should be a piece of cake, right?

Chapter 20

I hope you didn’t take Dan Barker’s bet seriously – basically every single statement in this chapter contradicts at least one other gospel. I’m not even going to try to list every conflict. Who went to the tomb? When? What did they see? Were they happy or sad? Whom did they tell? What did they do next? To whom did Jesus appear? Did they recognize him? Was it OK to touch him? When did Jesus go to heaven? Watching this short video will explain the difficulty of the task – guaranteed to drive you crazy!

Yeah, good luck with the contest… and let me know if you win the money!

Couple of general comments: The phrase ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved’ appears 6 times in John (see v 2), and is in no other gospel. Traditionally this has been thought to be John himself, but it’s the topic of much debate. Every time the phrase comes up in the SAB, it is accompanied by a pink triangle icon and the question “was Jesus gay?” I haven’t previously commented on that because it opens another whole can of worms, but if you’re looking for some additional reading and want to research that angle, have fun. In fact, Steve Wells (of the SAB) has a new book out dealing specifically with homosexuality in the bible – it’s called Strange Flesh.

John 20-19As Wells asks in the SAB, why does Jesus tell Mary Magdalene not to touch him in v 17, when he specifically directs Thomas to touch him in v 27? John 20:19 Do women have cooties? (Or just her? She’s immoral, remember.) Is she ‘unclean’? Why do modern translations change the wording (“don’t cling to me” – NLT and “don’t hold on to me” – NIV) – to make it appear less sexist? And why does Jesus go out of his way to show them his wounds anyway? Didn’t he say that only an evil generation would demand a sign (Matt 16:4)? (But he does comment, in v 29, that people who are willing to believe without seeing are extra special.)

Notice that Jesus can teleport himself after his resurrection? (v 19 and 26)? And one last comment – the original ending of the book is here. Chapter 21 is now thought to be an addendum, much like the one in Mark. An opportunity to tack on a few more miracles, I guess.

Fun Easter quiz time! Bet you’ll ace this one, too!

Chapter 21

So what was tacked on to the end of John? Literally, a fish tale. Nice touch!

john 21-01

First thing that strikes me is that it doesn’t really fit in with the style of the previous chapters; this sounds more like a children’s school reader. “Simon Peter said, “I’m going fishing.” “We’ll come, too,” they all said. So they went out in the boat…” Seriously???? In v 7, the KJV states plainly that Peter was naked, but modern versions clean that up (family values and all).

Feed my lambsSo what’s with the ‘feed my lambs’ section? My apologist source refers to it as ‘the restoration of Peter’. Remember, Peter denied Jesus thrice, so Jesus has to ask him 3 times over to re-affirm his discipleship and faith. Here we are back at the shepherd metaphor – Jesus is the shepherd, so ‘feed my lambs’ refers to Peter taking over the tending of the flock now that Jesus is gone (or will be gone). John 21:15 makes a cute name for children’s church groups and literature

The last section I find confusing, even after reading the apologist’s notes. It seems to suggest that the most important instruction is to Follow Jesus, and not worry about what he is doing with other believers or when he will return. If that’s the case, then it must have been added to reassure those who were becoming skeptical about why Jesus wasn’t returning or hadn’t returned when they thought he would (remember, his original followers believed he would return in their lifetimes; when he didn’t, they had to revise their expectations). V 24 assures us that the disciple who recorded everything – presumably John, except probably actually not – got everything accurate. Decades after the fact (if any of these events even happened at all). Bahaha! Note that in John there is no Great Commission, and no ascension.

Now that you’ve read all the gospels, you decide whether Jesus is…

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