Reta's Reflections

Jesus’s Trial before Pilate: Not What You Expect—John 18:29-19:16a

“Then add to this complicated political system another category: the Jewish rebels and messiahs who believed God wanted them to violently overthrow the Romans. Such unrest pushed the priestly caste more strongly toward cooperation with the Roman governor and against the peasants, who comprised 90 percent of the population. Into this mix comes Jesus of Nazareth, who identifies with the peasants, heals their disabilities, and teaches them that the way to God is not through sacrifices bought from corrupt high priests, but can be received as a gift through him! ” Continue reading

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Arrest and Trial by Night—John 18:1-27

“Jesus is in control of the situation. He knows ‘all that was to happen to him’ (v 4). He steps forward and questions first: ‘Whom are you looking for?’ When they reply, ‘Jesus of Nazareth,’ he identifies himself. The NRSV quotes Jesus saying, ‘I am he,’ but the Greek text uses the name we’ve heard many times before in this Gospel—egō eimí—’I AM.’ When Jesus says this, all the officers step back and ignobly fall to the ground! (v 6). As they scramble to their feet, the question and the replies are repeated again: ‘I told you that I AM!’ Taking charge in this way is a matter of honor. Only the inferior are controlled by those above them.” Continue reading

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Praying for Myself, Us, and Them—John 17:1-26

“Although the patron-client relationship is used between humanity and God, Jesus is clear that this should not be practiced among believers. The goal of Jesus’s work with his disciples is not to act superior to them (remember the footwashing in John 13?). Instead he asks God to ‘protect them…so that they may be one as we are one’ (v 11). Later, he asks ‘also for those who will believe in me through their [the disciples’] word, that they may all be one’ (vv 20-21). The level of intimacy between Jesus and his Father/Mother is to be the pattern for all believers. No more pulling rank over others because of higher social status. That is how ‘the world’ works.” Continue reading

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Living in a Hostile World—John 16:1-33

“The suffering Johannine communities are symbolized by a woman in labor (16:20-22). Earlier we noted how Jesus’s role in John’s Gospel is similar to an idealized Mediterranean woman who is given complete authority over her household and children. This is another example of Jesus’s (and the Spirit’s) understanding of women’s concerns. We can imagine Jesus as an older woman ministering to her daughter who labors to bring forth a child. In this way the Advocate stands with the marginalized community, making the reassuring promise that, in Jesus’s words, ‘You have pain now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one can take your joy from you’ (16:2-24).” Continue reading

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A Vineyard of Friendship—John 15:1-17

“Agape love, of course, does not have to mean liking another person—it is wanting the best for them as you want the best for yourself. It is taking others on their own terms and accepting them the way they are, understanding that hurtful behavior can come from personal insecurity or even mental illness. It may sometimes mean confrontation and ‘tough love’ that can easily be misinterpreted. Agape love demands a lot of humility. It is not surprising that Jesus called this kind of loving a ‘command’ (v. 17)—something you do rather than something you necessarily feel.” Continue reading

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Questions and Misunderstandings—John 14:1-31

“The ‘key verse’ in this section is verse 6, which many Christians know by heart: ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’ Unfortunately, this is often used as a doctrinal statement meant to exclude non-Christians. ‘Unless you believe in Jesus you can’t be saved,’ some will say. Instead of ‘not letting hearts be troubled’ (14:1), this verse has troubled Christian hearts and those from other religions alike. Continue reading

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Loyalty and Betrayal among Beloved Friends—John 13:18-38

“But in this Gospel, Judas’s action is so reprehensible it is as if the devil himself possessed him (vv. 2, 27). As further evidence, Jesus quotes an apt line from Psalm 41:9—‘Even my bosom friend in whom I trusted, who ate of my bread, has lifted the heel against me.’ (See Jn 13:18.) In that Mediterranean culture, to ‘lift the heel’ means showing the sole of one’s foot to another. It is a great insult, a wish to utterly shame another.” Continue reading

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