Part of my work in Catechist Formation includes Scriptural exploration and interpretation. This week we focused on John’s Gospel and I put together the following in response to an assignment prompt…
John’s gospel is divided into the book of signs (1:19 –12:50) and the book of glory (13:1–20:31).
Cite one passage from each category and briefly explain what it says about who Jesus is.
What I’d like to offer here is actually a unified picture, developed across both of these “books” of John’s Gospel, by way of connections to Exodus. «all quotes from NAB(RE) translation»
From a very broad perspective, Exodus is not only a story of liberation but of a clear distinction between, on the one hand, the word and power of God, and on the other hand, the human messenger and conduit [Moses]. God’s instructions are delivered to Moses who announces them to the people; God’s power remains God’s alone. [Though it is unimaginable that he would try, there is little reason to doubt that any attempt to wield God’s power according to the whims of human will would find Moses impotent—he and his staff were that through which God’s power was passed but none was retained in or belonged to Moses himself.]
With these points in mind, let us direct our attention to the following episodes:
- Ex. 3:14 –
God replied to Moses: I am who I am. Then he added: This is what you will tell the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you.
- Ex. 16:4 & 31 –
Then the Lord said to Moses: I am going to rain down bread from heaven for you. Each day the people are to go out and gather their daily portion…
The house of Israel named this food manna. It was like coriander seed, white, and it tasted like wafers made with honey.
- Ex. 17:1-2 & 5-6 –
But there was no water for the people to drink, and so they quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.”
The Lord answered Moses: […] I will be standing there in front of you on the rock in Horeb. Strike the rock, and the water will flow from it for the people to drink.
Recalling and yet contrasting Exodus, the Gospel of John is a story of not mere liberation but, rather, of salvation [the ‘final’ liberation, if you will]. Further, in place of a distinction, we find a unity between the word and power of God and the human messenger and conduit.
- Jn. 4:12-14 [signs] –
Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this well and drank from it himself with his children and his flocks?” Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
- Jn. 6:11 & 32 [signs] –
Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were reclining, and also as much of the fish as they wanted.
Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.
- Jn. 13:19 [glory] –
From now on I am telling you before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe that I AM.
In Moses we had the power to liberate delivered through the chosen liberator.
In Jesus we have the power to save arriving in the begotten savior.
Note too the reversal of order:
–In Exodus we have I AM, then bread, then water.
–In John we have water, then bread, then I AM.
What is interesting to note here, as well, is the additional structural parallel that can be found between John and Genesis on this same point:
–In John: water precedes the bread that is a product of land, then God completing His work.
–In Genesis: throughout the Creation water always precedes land, then God at rest in the completion of His work.
The Jesus of John’s Gospel returns us to creation and the (re)birth of the world through the Word. This point is made explicit at the opening of the Gospel:
- Jn. 1:1-5 –
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.