Reta's Reflections

Postscript: The Reception of John’s Gospel

“The biblical canon—the list of books that comprise the Bible as we know it today— was not fixed until the mid or late 4th century. Long before that, however, churches developed lists of texts appropriate for reading in their assemblies. The Synoptic Gospels were a shoo-in from the beginning, since Jesus was the central authority figure for Christians. But some, especially Jewish Christians, questioned John’s Gospel because it portrayed Jesus as more divine and less human than did the Synoptics.”
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The Rehabilitation of Peter—John 21:15-25

“What does the author intend by using two different words for ‘love’ in John 21:15-17? ‘Agape’ is the all-encompassing love from God that enables disciples to be kind and accepting toward everyone, whether or not they are lovable. ‘Philos’ is the warm affection friends have for each other. Perhaps Peter loves Jesus as a friend but is not yet able to embrace the necessary ‘agape’ needed to be a church leader of many different kinds of people. He needs to be told three times to feed all of Jesus’s sheep! Only then can he truly repent of having three times denied his relationship to Jesus.” Continue reading

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A Fish Story:  Mother Jesus Serves Breakfast—John 21:1-14

“By the time everyone arrives, Jesus is making breakfast, just as he did back in John 6 when he fed 5000 people. Like an ordinary housewife, he fries flatbread and cooks some of the fish they had just caught. I can see the disciples standing around awkwardly, unused to helping with women’s work, and not knowing what to say (v 12).” Continue reading

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A “Touching” Group Appearance—John 20:19-31

“Within our current Western worldview, a dead body that becomes alive again cannot be explained by biology or physics. Thus, some Christians see Jesus’s resurrection as less a physical reality and more as a metaphor for new life and new spiritual insight. However, it is quite clear that Jesus’s disciples and the early church were totally convinced that Jesus had been bodily raised from death; some claimed to have seen and touched him! Otherwise, he would have been a failed messiah, and everyone would have gone back to their former lives and hoped for the real one to show up.” Continue reading

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A Pivotal Reunion in the Garden—John 20:1-18

“As a feminist reader, I page back through this Gospel looking for people ‘in the know,’ and I find they are mostly women! Mary Magdalene’s knowing in today’s lesson parallels that of other prominent women in this Gospel: Jesus’s mother, the Samaritan woman at the well, Martha of Bethany, and Mary of Bethany.”
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Jesus’s Burial and the Meaning of the Empty Tomb—John 19:38-20:10

“If they could afford it, Judeans buried their dead in a lengthy process. The first stage happened quickly, however. Between the last breath and sundown, the body was washed and anointed with spices, usually by women, and then laid on a shelf in a tomb cut out of the limestone bedrock around Jerusalem. Rites of mourning would begin at that time and continue for a full year. During that time, the flesh would rot away, leaving only the bones by the end of the year. This decomposition was necessary as a way for the person’s sins to be expiated. ” Continue reading

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Crucified, Dead, and Buried—John 19:16b-42

“There was nothing romantic about crucifixion. The victims had been stripped naked, their 10-level pain laced with public humiliation and shame. Many lingered for days, covered in their own excrement. From the onlookers’ mocking point of view, they got what they deserved. After they died, corpses were usually left hanging for birds and other predators to pick their bones clean. Crucifixions were Rome’s most dramatic advertisements to occupied peoples: ‘We’re in charge. Don’t mess with us, or you’re next!’” Continue reading

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