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Reflecting on John 11 17-27 & 38-44

Can we share Martha’s confession in John 11:27? And if we do, what does that sharing mean?

That’s a question in at least two senses. One, what confession do we understand ourselves to be sharing? What do we think we are affirming when we say “Yes, Lord, I believe you are the Christ …”? Two, what does that affirmation entail or demand of us in our lives, in our living? Does it affect our thinking, our feeling, or our behavior when it comes to anything else? Assuming it does, what else? How – what effect does it seem to have?

This may be the central question the author of the gospel of John wants us to ask ourselves about the text we are studyingJohn 11:17-27 & 38-44 – for Sunday, July 24. Some notes on the text are here. Here are a couple more questions we might want to think about, or discuss:

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Do we think of this story as “a miracle story”? Should we? Why?

Does the story give us the idea that we ought to have some particular attitude towards “miracles”? (e.g., see verse 22) What attitude is that? Why do we think that?

[More personal] How do we feel about that? Why?

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In verse 38 (and also verse 33), Jesus is literally enraged or indignant. Why? That is – how do we understand Jesus’ response here? What do we think he is indignant at, and why indignant?

What does this tell us about God, and about life and death?

[More personal] Is this a new understanding of God for us, or a familiar one? Whether new or familiar, how does thinking this way about God influence how we respond to God? Why?

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When we think about “what this story is about” or “what this story tells us,” where do we usually stop?

Suppose we didn’t stop there. What happens?

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Image: “Am Mittagstisch,” an image by Hermann Groeber [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons,

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3 responses to “Reflecting on John 11 17-27 & 38-44”

  1. Thanx again, HAT. I am so happy to have this dialog (even if stunted through anonymity and computer screens) because it nonetheless sparks curiosity and puts my nose on to a scent.

    I can’t really cope, at the moment, with the textual variant (Mary Magdalene), though I appreciate the tip on such insights. It may prove useful at some point.

    Nevertheless, due in no small part to your offerings and questions, I am finding New Heavens and New Earth business illuminated here I was not seeing before.

    I am curious on so many fronts. I cannot possibly resolve all my own questions or the ones you raise. Certainly not in a timely fashion. John is obviously rearranging the gospel furniture on set to suit his own emphases, which I see largely to do with a restoration of creation (New Heavens and New Earth – “Behold, I make all things new… (Rev. 21)). Your comment that chapter 11 is a “load bearing wall” challenges me to ties some things together here I might let go by otherwise.

    I am not really a John guy. But I find myself more and more drawn into John over the course of my life. I am a Mark guy at root. I have come to view Mark (and all the synoptics) as basically apocalyptic documents even if the genre only fits in a few passages. The apocalyptic symbols are still there all over the place, even phrases like mystery revealed in Mark 4, or the storm on the sea calmed… all this stuff get a much more traditionally apocalyptic treatment by John, esp in his Apocalypse. Thus, I have started smuggling apocalyptic back into the synoptics.

    Perhaps that is just me. I don’t see that analyzed much past the little apocalypse in Mark and Matthew by scholarship. But I find it fruitful. It leads me to ask further questions about death/sleep, and we have that discussion arise here in John 11 just like at Jairus’s house in Mark. In fact, these “the Jews” in John 11 sure look and act a lot like the mortuary mourners at Jairus’s house, and the point of Lazarus death being to God’s glory serves much the same purpose.

    But as I see John reworking New Heavens and New Earth, I think he is rewriting Genesis (see John 1:1 for instance). In chapter 14, Jesus goes to “prepare a room… in my Father’s house where there are many rooms….” This after washing his disciple’s feet in chapter 13… (I’ve been theologically studying and writing about HOSPITALITY for a few years now, and I see all of that as something a creator/carpenter restoring a New Heavens and New Earth does, and this death and resurrection appears to be right there at the core… of both who Jesus is and how he is THE DOOR or THE WAY.


    I am basically just rambling now… but the thoughts are trying to find coherence. Your post is firing neurons in my mind and thrilling my heart.



    • Hi, Agent X, sorry for the long delay … I couldn’t respond right away, and thought I would get back to it, and then, what with how way leads on to way …

      To me what you’re saying sounds like what people mean when they talk about “lenses” through which we can read these texts. And that you are using the “apocalyptic lens” these days, or the “eschatological lens.” Where someone else might use the “ethical lens” or the “communal lens” or whatever. It seems to me the texts are open to that kind of reading – since they are always saying a lot about a lot – so it seems legitimate to me, at the very least. And, in the case of using an eschatological lens for thinking about Jesus, instructive – Jesus DOES spend a lot of time talking about the eschaton, too. In all the synoptics.

      The thing about John and “the Jews” – I am an enthusiastic fan of Adele Reinhartz’s Cast Out of the Covenant, so I think of “the Jews” in that text as purely rhetorical characters. It’s still a minefield.

      New creation, though, seems like something to look forward to, always.

      Liked by 1 person

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