Setting the scene

IMG_0521The Gospel ofJohn contains a lot of teaching.

There are no parables, which is one way Jesus taught. But there is a lot of dialogue, of teaching in the form of conversation. Someone asks a question and then Jesus carefully and challengingly lays out an answer.

And for the dialogue, there is drama. John takes some time to set up drama, making sure that we know some of the people in the room, some of the tension which is being created.

This week, we’re going  to spend time reading parts of John 12. (I’ll give you the links, you have to follow them and read.)

This chapter, about midway through the book, starts on the Saturday before Good Friday. In other words, John spends almost half his book, his version of the Good News, of Jesus focusing on the last week of his life.

It important to remember that when John wrote John 12:1-11, he knew how the story was going to turn out. So when he writes, he and the Holy Spirit are picking out people and situations and details to help us see the important parts of the story.

In this passage, he brings back familiar characters.

He sets the scene at Martha’s house, with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus present. As you read the passage, think about what you know about these three people from other places they are mentioned. How is their behavior here consistent with other places? How does it show change?

Look at the crowds. Some of them are there for Jesus. Some are there for Lazarus. How many of them are curious? How many of them are devoted?

Look at the religious leaders. How are they responding to the presence of Lazarus? What difference is it making to the religious power structure that he is alive? How does John build tension in this part of the story?

What’s going to happen next?


One thought on “Setting the scene

  1. Rich Dixon

    Okay, since you asked…this seems to me to be sort of a “throwaway” incident. I’m sure I’m reading with the subtle touch of a blacksmith, but I can’t see how the narrative is altered much if this snapshot disappears.

    This time it’s Judas who’s complaining rather than Martha, which foreshadows his betrayal. But that’s only because we know what’s coming…in context, his gripe seems no worse than Martha’s in the previous episode. And he’s complaining about money instead of service, but that’s because men didn’t serve meals.

    So Martha’s changed her attitude (she listened and learned), Mary’s still worshiping, Lazarus is a magnet for political anger just because he’s alive (sort of obvious), and Judas’ betrayal is predicted (only because we know the ending).

    Is that it?


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