John’s Jesus’ Violent Path to Non-Violence

John’s prologue begins by telling us of the Logos which was with God in the beginning, of the violence of creation (bringing order to Chaos), the passivity of the light shining and the violent reaction of darkness to that light. Winding the literary path to John the Baptizer, John writes of massive tale of the Word Become Flesh which came to earth unknown but attempted to make Himself known. We are finally introduced to this Light of the World as the Lamb of God which had come to take away the sins of the world. Suddenly, the man had disciples and we find him attending a wedding feast, sitting in a corner. It was after that wedding that Jesus attended the Passover Celebration at the Temple (John 2.13-17).

During this celebration, this man who claimed to be the Son of God, made a whip out of some ropes and proceeded to demonstrate the holiness of His Father’s Temple. He met the merchants who were abusing the Temple worshipers with violence and anger, citing Scripture:

His disciples remembered that it was written, “ZEAL FOR YOUR HOUSE WILL CONSUME ME.” John 2:17 NASB

Then his disciples remembered this prophecy from the Scriptures: “Passion for God’s house will consume me.” John 2:17 NLT

Quoting Psalm 69.9, we find that the thought contained therein is not a good one, but one in which the speaker is undone, losing his family and the respect of his compatriots because of his zeal for God. Immediately, John’s Jesus issues the challenge to the Jewish leaders to kill him, telling them that he could do what no man, or even God, had done, and that was to rebuild the destroyed temple in three days. John later interprets Jesus to mean that he was speaking about his death, burial and resurrection. (John 2.18-25) But, to Jesus had challenged them to destroy the temple, rather, to kill him in order to prove that he could return.

We then find him meeting with a Jewish leader in the dark, hiding the conversation from both the Romans and the Jews, a conversation which again promotes the idea that Jesus must die for the world to be healed. The Jewish leader knew the vileness of humanity, surely, and had to have understood John’s Jesus as saying that just as the bronze serpent was strapped to a pole and lifted up for the world to see, so too must Jesus. Only crucifixion could accomplish this. And while you may live a bit on the stake, it was expected that one couldn’t do so for long.

Then, after a crowd had gathered on the shore, looking for Jesus. The disciples finding him, was confronted with the fact that Jesus was disheartened with them. Telling them that they needed to look for more than just miracles, he said that he was the bread of life, which like the Temple Bread, was broken and sacrificed. He must be considered the same way. He gives what we would understand as an eucharistic sermon, describing his body and blood as something once broken and spilled, could restore (John 6.22-59).

During another Jewish feast, Jesus – in the middle of a controversy of just who he really was – went up to the Temple (John 7.1-15) and begin to openly preach, telling them among other things, that people were trying to kill him (John 7.19-20). Later, he began to preach that he was greater than Moses and Abraham and that the Jewish leaders in the crowd were no better than the Gentiles. Pressing the issue was no problem for John’s Jesus, until the Pharisees started to pick up stones (John 8.58-59). He was hidden, but during the Festival of Lights, he was confronted again, when he began to speak of his divine heritage. The Jewish leaders corned him, picking up stones, was confronted themselves with the idea that the Jewish believed in a sort of divine council. The arrest and murder plot had failed (John 10.22-42).

Another plot nearly came to fruition when John’s Jesus healed Lazarus. (John 11.45-57) This time, however, the High Priest knew that it might become necessary to have Jesus killed to satisfy the Roman authorities, no doubt to prevent a power struggle from happening again between the Pharisees and the Sadducees. When he found this out, Jesus stopped his public ministry (John 11.54). Later, privately, Jesus said that in order for the Kingdom of God to come, he must depart, meaning to die, that his death would produce life for all. Finally, what Jesus had asked for was going to be given to him.

He was arrested and brought before Pilate (John 18.28-40). He had pushed the Jews and the Romans into a frenzy. He had reacted violently to the merchants in the Temple, his Father’s Temple, beating them and destroying their booths. This no doubt upset the tax collectors and the Temple authorities. He had challenged the authority of the Pharisees, and pushed away the crowds and his disciples. Further, nearly everywhere he went, he begged for death by promising that his death would bring about victory. Now, he had his moment to bring everything to a head, to force violence to usher in the Kingdom, but he refused to do so. Matthew’s Jesus had said that the Kingdom of God need to be taken by violent men (Matthew 11.12) but John’s Jesus refused to order his disciples into action, instead merely commenting that his kingdom was not earthly, so there was no need to fight. He also taunted Pilate that his powerless was meaningless in the face of the Son of God, unless God gave that power.

God did. And Jesus died. Violently. As He had sometimes lived.

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