Church of England Diocese of Southwell & Nottingham Ordsall and Retford Saint Michael

Meanderings in St John's Gospel for Sunday 18th October 2020

Meanderings in St. John 3. Chapters 19 to 21. By Rev Canon A J Kerswill

Chapter 19

This chapter shows the work of Jesus reaching its climax and fulfilment. Jesus is calm, dignified, and silent. He is a helpless prisoner yet dominates the quasi trial. We see clearly the vacillating weakness of Pilate. “He sought to release Jesus” (19v12)

“I find no fault in him……”(19v4) Pilate’s weak show of authority crumbles when the Jewish leaders said “If you release this man you are not Caesar’s friend.” (19v12) Pilate could not afford a bad report to Rome so he caved in.

We see the ruthless determination of the religious leaders “Crucify him, crucify him” “By our law he ought to die”

V5. “Here is the man” Was this merely an affirmation of what the leaders wanted? or was it a tribute to the dignity, courage and general behaviour of Jesus?

Was Pilate saying that here is a real man? The word “King” occurs regularly in Ch. 19. Pilate and the Jewish leaders thought in terms of military power

and conquest by force. Jesus thought in different terms “My kingdom is not of this world”(18v36)

v. 15 “We have no king but Caesar” The Jewish leaders hated the power and oppression of Rome. For them the only King was God alone. In these few words the leaders repudiated all the past in favour of political expediency, refusing God himself and renouncing his rule and Covenant.

V.17 “Bearing his own cross” John makes no mention of Simon of Cyrene. See Lk.23v26) Perhaps John is making a profound point; only Jesus can bear this cross, for this cross carries the redemption of the sins of the whole world.

Vv19 to 22 Pilate made one last stand against the leaders “What I have written I have written “Pilate’s inscription was a great and deep affirmation of who Jesus is, and affirmation that Pilate saw only dimly.

The inscription was in Hebrew, Latin and Greek, three deeply significant language in the history of world and church. Hebrew was the language of the old covenant now superseded by Jesus. Latin was the language of the Law and the Church Greek was the language of culture. The last two language spread the Gospel of Jesus across the whole world. The Gospels were written first in Greek then in Latin, but ultimately, they were written in every language of the world, the Kingship of Christ proclaimed.

V.18 “They crucified him there.” John’s comment seems almost laconic! No indication of the awfulness, pain, brutality of crucifixion. John only mentions “two others. “No mention of the two thieves, no mention of the dying thief and Jesus promise. Why is John so sparing in the details? I think it was because by the time John wrote his Gospel the facts of Jesus’ life death and resurrection were very well known. John’s gospel is about the meaning and significance of Jesus. I’ll return to that later.

Vv25 26. Show once again Jesus compassion for others even in the hours of his death and agony,

v.28 “It is finished” Was this just a heartfelt cry that his work was over, a great sigh of relief?

Perhaps, yet it is sometimes translated “It is accomplished” A cry of triumph and victory. Now Jesus can let go of his life content “I have finished the work you gave me to do.” (17v5)

John’s whole emphasis is on Jesus in control, Jesus is not simply the victim of events but the one who uses those events to achieve God’s purpose. Triumphant and victorious “He gave up his spirit”(v30)

V.38 The two secret disciples ensure that Jesus’ body is treated properly, at least they could give him this last service. Where were all the others?

The closing words of Ch. 19 “They laid him there” are words of sadness, it’s all over we’ve done our best let’s go home. The rest of the Gospel shows just wrong they were.

Chapter 20.

John’s description of the Resurrection of Jesus is very low key. Compare with Matthew for example (see Mt. Chapter 28vv1-10 or Lk.vv1-10)

What convinced the disciple according to John’s narrative? There were two things.

The empty tomb; the carefully arranged burial cloths.

V11 --`15 Mary seems to have been given a personal proof of Jesus’ resurrection. She is called by name (v16) and she is given a commission (v17) Jesus’s words to Mary in v 17 “Do not hold me” refers to Mary’s wish to physically hold on to Jesus, but it could also be applied to the truth of the resurrection. Jesus is saying to Mary “Do not keep this truth or me to yourself, go and tell others”

V21 The commission given to Mary is to be shared with the other apostles and later to all people.

V22. Keeping to the commission given to the disciples Jesus provides them with the power to do it.

John gives a very gentle account of the giving of the spirit “When he had said receive the Holy Spirit,” Very different from the account in Acts 2vv1-6. Luke has drama with fire and wind. I think these two different accounts of the same thing are saying to us that the gift of the Holy spirit comes to us in different ways. We cannot confine it to any one way, and no way is better than any other.

Vv 24—28 The ground of faith. What should we rely on for the truth of our faith? Some, like Thomas need something visible tangible a bible verse or a passage in a book. That is what Thomas wanted “Unless I see in his hands the prints of the nails, and place my finger on the mark of the nails…I will not believe”(v25) Others come to faith by the testimony of others; still others by a vivid personal experience v24 “We have seen the Lord.”

In the end it doesn’t matter by which route we come to faith. What matters is that we trust what we have seen or heard or experienced.

V31 is John’s “signing off.” His Gospel is quite different from the other three. John has told the story of Jesus, but he has also tried to interpret the story. Why? John’s purpose is clear. “This is written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.”

Chapter 21

John’s final chapter emphasises the reality of the Resurrection, offers further proofs that Jesus is alive. Firstly he shows Jesus alive to men in their everyday work,(vv2 to 8)

In vv 15 to 19 He offers Peter a new hope. Firstly by giving him the chance to reaffirm his love, secondly to accept a new commission “feed my lambs tend my sheep feed my sheep “ (vv15,16,17) Is Jesus telling Peter that his task is one of helping young Christians to grown in faith (feed my lambs) but Peter is also called to care for the Church community and enable it to do the task entrusted to it (feed my sheep)

What is true for Peter is true for us all. Hard though it may be for us to believe God will not abandon us if we fail deny him. He will gather us to him ask us to re-affirm our love and call us to fresh service in his kingdom.

V20 “What about this man?” “this man” may well have been St John himself. Peter wanted to know what Jesus had in mind for John. Jesus reminded Peter that his task was to follow Jesus, to discover what God wanted from him, never mind about God’s plan and purpose for a fellow disciple. It is a gentle reminder to us that We need not concern ourselves about another’s task but be obedient in the task to which we have been called.

So John’s interpretation of Jesus and his ministry comes to a positive end with a young Christian community enthused with the message of life with Christ, a message which will in time spread across the whole world. He hints that there was much more that could be said about Jesus(bv25) but John has done his work. The rest is up to God.