Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Good Life Sermon Number 6

Last Sunday I taught the sixth message in a ten-week series called The Good Life: Redeeming Suburbia through Counter-cultural Living. Every week we contrast a myth of suburbia about living the good life (taken from David Goetz's book, Death by Suburb) with a message of Jesus about living the good life (taken from the Gospel of John).

This past week we looked at the myth, "I Need to Make a Difference with My Life." We talked about how we all have this feeling that God wants us to do something great with our lives. Does He? Maybe He just wants us to be faithful. We looked at Jesus' interaction with Pontius Pilate, the hidden righteousness, and the importance of doing good, even when no one is looking.
You can listen to this, or any of my other sermons here.


Rob Dilfer said...
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Rob Dilfer said...
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Matt said...

Thanks, Rob.

John's caricature of "The Jews" in the Fourth Gospel is problematic. Whoever "The Jews" are, John doesn't like them.

In 2:18, the Jews demand a sign of Jesus' authority. To John this is a sign of unbelief.

In John 5:10–16, the Jews persecute Jesus for healing a man on the Sabbath.

In John 5:18, the Jews want to murder Jesus.

In John 7:1, the Jews want to take Jesus' life.

In John 8, the Jews don't believe in Jesus. They accuse him of being demon possessed and they want to kill him.

In John 9:22, the Jews threaten to throw followers of Jesus out of the synagogue.

In John 10:31, the Jews threaten to stone Jesus.

In John 18, Pilate wants to release Jesus, but the Jews pressure him into executing him.

When you read through John, there is a consistent negative portrayal of this group called "the Jews." They are pretty much the "bad guys" of the story. This has led many Jewish readers of John to conclude that the Fourth Gospel is anti-Semitic.

The problem with this is that Jesus was Jewish, and if the traditional view of Johannine authorship of the Fourth Gospel is correct, then the author himself is Jewish. So, it is unlikely that John was trying to stir up anti-Semitism in the Christian ranks.

Further, when John praises Nathanael in 1:47, he calls him an "Israelite," not a "Jew." This suggests that to John, "The Jews" carries a negative connotation. (This would be consistent with usage of this term in the first century. It wasn't a racial slur, but it wasn't a positive term, either.)

If "the Jews" aren't the whole Jewish people, to whom, then, does John refer by this term?

As in the Synoptic Gospels, it is the Jewish leadership--the scribes, Pharisees, and priests--who oppose Jesus. Most of the time, when "the Jews" oppose Jesus in the Fourth Gospel, they do so in contexts in which it would make most sense for a religious leader to oppose Jesus.

John is a well-written story, and as you read it, you can't help but get angry at this group called "the Jews." This is especially true in chapter 18, when "the Jews" kill Jesus. I pointed out that "the Jews" probably means "the Jewish religious leadership" because I didn't want people to get the idea that Christianity blames the death of the Messiah on a particular ethnic group. Jesus came into the world, and the whole world (including the Jews) rejected Him.

There are some times when John uses the phrase "the Jews" and he means "the Jewish people." This is what he is getting at when Jesus is called "the King of the Jews."