By Patricia McNally
St. John is referred to as the disciple and Apostle whom Jesus loved. He was the brother of James and the son of the fisherman Zebedee and Salome. St. John was a disciple of John the Baptist and became a follower of Christ. St John’s Gospel was written so ‘that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name’
The three main themes of this gospel are: Love, Victory and Revelation and oozing from these themes is the longing and yearning from Christ for us to believe in him. This severe thirst for us to believe is evident throughout the pages of this Gospel, through the many encounters people had with Jesus, and through the many miracles he performed. We can see these themes shining though each of the miracles and encounters that Jesus had.
People’s lives were not only touched by the love of God, but their lives were completely transformed by him. In the first Miracle at the wedding feast of Cana, Jesus saw that the people were in need of more wine. They had run out. The wedding celebrations would have come to a standstill. His Mother Mary asked him to intervene for she knew he could change this situation.
And even though his ‘time had not yet come’(7:6) he said ‘fill the jars with water’( 2:7) and his mother said ‘do whatever he tells you’ (2:5). There is much more depth to this story than is on the surface. It was here that Jesus revealed himself to his disciples because they saw with their own eyes the miracle he had performed. He did this out of love for his mother because she asked him, and he did it out of love for his friends whose wedding feast it was.
The wedding party had victory in this situation as shortage became replaced with abundance. The disciples saw Jesus in a new light after this. ‘He revealed his glory and his disciples believed in him’. (2:11)
We see the same themes flowing out when:
Jesus cured the dying boy of the Roman official.
Jesus Cured the paralytic
Jesus fed the 5,000
The adulteress was brought to Jesus
The blind man was cured
Lazarus was raised from the dead.
In the case of the dying boy, Jesus reached out in love, he saw the sorrow of the boy’s father. He reveals himself in public by curing the boy and death was overcome ‘thy son lives’(4:50)
The paralytic received Gods love and his healing. His was given a new life away from physical restrictions. He had a new freedom and he went away believing in the one who cured him. ‘Rise take up thy pallet and walk’ (5;8)
In the story of the loaves and the fish, Jesus overcame scarcity like he did at the wedding feast but this time it was on a bigger scale, and it was out in the open for everyone to see and experience for themselves. Everyone was fed. No one was left hungry. There is a lovely sense of Communion in this image of Jesus sitting and eating with all the crowds of people. Today we can experience this same sense of unity and communion with one another at Mass.
When the woman who committed adultery was brought to Jesus, the people around thought that he would punish her for her sins. They observed closely what action he would take but they were left gobsmacked when he said ‘let him who is without sin be the first to cast a stone at her’ (8:7) He showed her his mercy and love, he showed the public that he had the power to forgive sins, again revealing himself as to who he was. Victory resided over sin as the sin was forgiven. ‘Go thy way and from now on, sin no more’ (8:11)
In the cure of the blind man, we see the same outpouring of love from Jesus.
We note also that if we are obedient to what Jesus asks of us we will receive what he wants to give us. Jesus gave the blind man a specific instruction ‘Go wash in the pool of Siloh’ (9:7) The blind man followed this instruction and his sight was restored. In a lot of these stories the number three is significant. There was Jesus, the blind man and the pool.
This reminds us of the Trinity. God the Father, God the Son and the Holy Spirit. We are reminded of this again when Jesus meets the Samaritan woman at the well. We have an image of a man, a woman and a well. This is a powerful story and it is one from which we can learn so much from.
We all encounter Jesus at certain times in our lives,but when he draws us close to him we will feel it in an intimate and beautiful way. This can come at a time when we least expect it. This Woman came to the well for water. She probably went there every day and that day was no different, or so she thought! Little did she know that her life was going to be transformed forever! She came away from that well a different person, a new person, a changed person, and she in turn went back to her community and spoke of the Lord who not only grabbed her heart, but who moved her whole being.
We see also the progression of this encounter at the well. This is like our own relationship with Jesus. It starts out maybe with us not knowing him, us getting to know him-through prayer and the Sacraments, and then him, leading and inviting us, into closer union with him through Scripture, Adoration and giving witness to the Gospel in our own lives. At this point we really come to believe in him in a deeper way because something has taken place inside us and our lives have become changed.
Jesus will knock at our door and if we keep ignoring that knock then he will knock harder in the hope that we will realize he is there for us as a protector, a guide, a healer, a teacher, a father, a kind, loving and merciful God whose only longing is for us to believe in him and for us to experience his love.
Sometimes we make a statement like ‘do you expect me to walk on water for you?’ Jesus literally did!! ‘It is I do not be afraid’ (6:20) He wants us to trust in him and move away from our fear. He is willing to go to whatever lengths it takes to draw us close to him.
He raised his friend Lazarus from the dead and he said ’I rejoice on your account that I was not there, that you may believe’ (11:15) Jesus wept over his friend dying and Martha and Mary both said that if he had come earlier their brother would not have died. Jesus implored the help of his Father to bring Lazarus back to life. Jesus all the time shows us that he understands our grief, our suffering, and our trials.
We are brought through his terrible suffering in the Passion and the Crucifixion and not only do we journey with him through this Gospel but he too journeys with us in our own sufferings. There is no feeling that we can have that Jesus has not already experienced! When we are experiencing suffering of any kind, we share in the cross and by our faith we are given the grace to carry the cross.
The splinters hurt us but it is then that Christ is closest to us even though we may not realise it. The Crucifixion is a visible representation of the invisible crosses that you carry in your heart. All of the people that Jesus met throughout his lifetime were carrying crosses.
It is the Cross that unites us to him. At the foot of the cross in St. John’s Gospel again we see Love, Victory and Revelation but most of all we see a powerful and amazing love being poured out in the words ‘Woman, this is your son’ and to John he said ‘This is your mother’ (19:26) He loved them both so much and he gave them each other. Jesus never ceased to pour out his love on all those with whom he encountered.
St. John was closely connected to Jesus in a special way, even more so than the other disciples, and this is why Jesus trusted him completely to look after his Mother who herself had suffered so much. Mary is revealed to us as the new Eve in this Gospel.
Jesus said ‘when you have lifted up the Son Of Man then you will know that I am he’ (8:28)
I hope that by exploring some of the stories in this Gospel that it has given you a deeper insight into the themes of Love, Victory and revelation. In each of these stories there are three aspects:
1.Life before the encounter with Christ
2.The Encounter with Christ
3.New Life in Christ
New life in Christ comes to us through the Resurrection and the working of the Holy Spirit. In John we win. Death has been overcome. Sin and Evil have been overcome. Jesus has won the battle for us and he says ‘ I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father but through me’ (14.6) We rejoice in the resurrection of Christ knowing that he is with us today, ever present, completely present with us through the Sacraments. By remaining in obedience to his teachings we remain in his love and we live under his guidance and protection.