My summary of John’s Gospel

The key purpose of the Gospel of John is that those who read it might believe in who Jesus is (Messiah and Son of God), and by believing, have life in His name (John 20:31). Chapter 1 introduces this clear purpose as it outlines the main message of the Gospel (Believe in Jesus and become a child of God (v12)), as well as introduce all the key truths about Jesus which we must believe in order to be saved. That is, that Jesus is God (v1), God become man (v14), Son of God (v18), Christ/Messiah (v17), and Saviour (v29).

Alongside these grand and compelling truths about Jesus, the Gospel details the ministry of one who is deeply interested and invested in people. The Gospel contains a number of distinctive extended interactions between Jesus and both individuals (e.g. Nicodemus (ch3), the Samaritan woman(ch4)) and groups (the disciples (13-17), and “the Jews”).

Based on these truths about Jesus and the account of his life, the Gospel author John masterfully brings the thoughtful reader to a compelling choice – reject Him or receive Him. The one option that is not available to us is to remain indifferent to him (1).

Some other distinctive characteristics of this Gospel:

  • The clarity with which the divinity of Jesus is argued, not only in 1:1 but later in the “I am” phrases, clearly equating Jesus with the God of Israel (Exodus 3:14) (2).
  • The Gospel is full of repeated images, patterns, ideas and emphasis that all contribute to the strong and clear case for belief in Jesus as God. For example, Jesus calls us to drink from the well of life (Ch4) and eat the bread of life (Ch6), He calls us to walk in the light Ge provides (Ch8), and live in the vine (Ch15) which is Himself.
  • The dualism that emerges in the opening chapter and then continues throughout – light/darkness (1:5), life/death, in the world/not of the world, receive/reject etc (3).
  • Many familiar accounts from the other Gospels are absent (parables, the sermon on the mount, the transfiguration) yet Blomberg argues that “almost every distinctive passage in John finds at least short conceptual counterparts in one or a handful of much shorter Synoptic sayings somewhere”. (4)

As a Christian, it’s hard not to be be moved by Jesus’ prayer for all believers (me!) in Chapter 17, and then to be struck by the distinctly tender finish to the Gospel in chapter 21 as Jesus repeats the phrase ‘Peace be with you’, and then as Jesus cooks breakfast for the disciples and charges Peter to ‘feed his lambs’.

As a slight aside, I was also struck by how John records the start of Jesus’ public ministry, by selecting the contrasting scenes of Him turning water into wine and then clearing the temple. Could you imagine a religious leader within the reformed evangelical tradition announcing their public ministry by promoting alcohol consumption, and then causing a public disturbance in a church meeting?

Structurally, there is a distinct beginning (1:1-19) and end (chapter 21), although chapter 21 may be a later addition (5). The Gospel opens and closes with Christ’s command to follow him (1:43, 21:19), again confirming the main purpose of the Gospel. I would divide the rest of the Gospel into 3 sections, split by Jesus’ long discourse with his disciples in chapters 13-17. The first section contains the main part of His earthly ministry and the latter section dealing with His arrest through to resurrection.

1. Elena Bosetti, John (n.p.: Pauline Books and Media, 2011), 8.
2. Joel Green, Jeannine Brown and Nicholas Perrin, ‘The Dialectical Theology Of John’, Dictionary Of Jesus And The Gospels (USA: InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, 2013), 400.
3. John Ashton, Understanding the Fourth Gospel (New York:Oxford University Press, 2007), 387-418.
4 C. L. Blomberg, Jesus and the Gospels: An Introduction and Survey (2nd Edition. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2009) , 178.
5. Graham Stanton, The Gospels And Jesus (2nd ed.; n.p.: Oxford University Press, 2002), 98.

Bootcamp reflections

I had my first ‘face-to-face’ experience of Ridley College this weekend at their (our?) 24hr Bootcamp, to start the academic year, and welcome new students (like me).

It was just under 3hr drive to the campsite at Upper Plenty. I was one of maybe one or two others that had come to the Bootcamp as online students. I met one guy who had traveled all the way from Perth. Still, it didn’t stop every single person I met from commenting on how good it was that I had travelled down for the event.

I’m really glad I went. I think it will prove invaluable over the next few years to have real faces, personalities and stories behind the names and written words that I interact with online.

It was rewarding for me to connect with a number of people on a personal level, to get a better feel for what Ridley College is all about, both formally and the vibe of the place, and to have my heart stirred more broadly and bigg-ly to consider Christian ministry in general – the call to it, different expressions and experiences of it, different pathways etc.

I picked up on a few elements of what I think are aspects of Ridley college culture:

  • An emphasis on community – based on shared life experience of studying at College, a common faith, but also community as a way to account for what appears to be a fairly diverse collection of Christian denominations. (I had a few conversations where people commented how Ridley is keen to train anyone to equip them for Christian ministry, whether they are Anglican, Presbyterian, Baptist (pentecostal?) etc).
  • I enjoyed the singing. I don’t know whether it’s particular to Ridley, or this particular group of people we had, or whether I could expect it generally at any Christian college, but everyone sang with so much enthusiasm and volume (regardless of singing ability). Sure, some of the voices weren’t great, but it was the combination of all the enthusiastic voices that actually created it’s own unique musical feel – even the off notes and the droning voices combined in a weird kind of mix with the pitch perfect voices to create a rich and intriguing harmony
  • Almost all the Faculty were there, and I bumped into a few of them assuming they were students. They seemed to all enjoy being part of the experience alongside the students. They all knew each other by name and had an obvious affection for each other.
  • There were a lot more females than I expected. There was at least as many female students there as males.
  • There was a lot of talk about ‘discernment’ – or rather, that word kept popping up – the year of discernment before one becomes a candidate within Melbourne Diocese, discerning the things that are disputable matters when Christian disagree, discerning what is best from amongst all the good choices for ministry etc.

I’m really not sure how I feel about on-campus college study now. I had some good conversations with people who encouraged me to consider it. Clearly it’s preferable in most ways for people going into full-time paid Christian ministry. But I don’t think it’s always the best way for everybody.

I think my two main reservations are; leaving currently life and ministry in Albury to pursue it (and all the drastic implications of that), and that I feel like I’m not done with my current professional career yet – there’s a few aspects I haven’t quite resolved, one of which is how to be an effective Christian in a secular workplace.

Reflections from Week 1 Old Testament foundations

Purpose and goal of scripture (2 Timothy 3:16)

  1. orthodoxy: Right thinking
  2. orthopraxis: right action

It’s more than just that OT is fulfilled in Christ, but that the OT does not have the proper meaning if not seen in the light of Christ.

Need to be mindful of multiple authors and audiences of the Scripture. It is God and man, but human factors will influence how/what is written.

Genesis 1 was not designed and written to answer the question ‘how’ but ‘who’
Who: All powerful, singular, speaking, living, one true God

Genesis functions as an ancient apologetic with themes and messages counter to other creation narratives e.g. 1 God sovereign over all, humans the pinnacle of creation, global inclusion account rather than tied to particular people

To be made in God’s image is to be his representatives and to exert his rule under him. When we fail to rule under God, we fail to live up to our image (see Nebuchadnezzar humbled as a wild animal)

Model for interpreting the bible:

  1. Look up (prayer)
  2. look down (exegesis)
  3. look back and
  4. look forward (biblical theology)
  5. look here (application)

Overall purpose and shape of Mark

These are my 250 words on this topic from Week 1 of the subject NT501: Jesus and the Gospels.

How do you think Mark wants his readers to respond to his document? Can you outline something of the shape of his Gospel?

Mark wants his readers to respond with interest and awe at this compelling character who is clearly commissioned by God, with the authority and power of God to bring about the fulfillment of the good news of His kingdom, through his servant-like ministry.

Mark’s account is largely straight-forward and action-packed, devoid of flourish or poetry. Lacking also is much that would resonate with a Jewish audience as there is little in the way of explicit Old Testament references. The account appears not to be concerned with Jesus ancestry or background prior to his formal ministry commencing.

The pace slows down so much in the account of the last few days of Jesus’ life before his execution that it feels as though the action moves in slow motion. This is done by Mark I think to focus the reader on the significance of each scene and of the crucifixion and resurrection period in general as it is at the heart of the message of this Gospel about the purpose and work of Jesus in his earthly ministry.

Some other interesting aspects of this Gospel that influence the shape and impact of the message:

  • A ministry of healing both the body and the soul – and these are often linked in that Jesus readily responds to those that show faith.
  • A ministry in tension with Jesus not wanting his full identity to be known – that the crowds might hinder his ministry, that people might be attracted to him for the wrong reasons.
  • The kingdom of God is so challenging and counter-cultural character (first will be last, lose your life to save it, inside not outside, be like little children etc)
  • The disciples are accounted for in a few unflattering ways; They don’t seem to get the real meaning behind much of Jesus’ teaching and often appear to miss the point, particularly the big point of Jesus’ death and resurrection
  • The most extended direct teaching of Jesus appears to be about persecution, end times, Jesus return
  • Jesus is a character deeply interested and invested in people. Very busy doing good – teaching and healing

Before I begin

How am I feeling as I commence the first two subjects of what will hopefully become a Masters of Divinity?

  • I am strangely feeling very knowledge-less. Despite all the stuff I know is in my head already, it feels like I am a blank slate ready to be filled up with information
  • I am feeling very unsure of how well I will manage the study commitments alongside all the other ‘stuff’ in my life
  • I am feeling under pressure to make the most of each day; to use my time most effectively and to not squander too much time; to not put off till tomorrow what I can do today; but I need to be careful to not obsess too much about future commitments that I neglect to live each day. For example, I find in myself the tendency to spend a lot of time today getting ready for tomorrow. Sure, it means that tomorrow will probably run much more smoothly, but I’ve just sacrificed one day for the sake of another. Sometimes this may not be worth the sacrifice
  • I am feeling excited about investing more of myself (time, energy, money) into pursuits that I believe are of eternal value
  • I am enjoying the feeling of uncertainty around what the future holds (of course this is always the case, but by deliberately making decisions that have removed certain allusions of security such as full-time employment, I am more aware of my lack of control); of feeling risky; of feeling a pinch into my comfort and security
  • I am enjoying the opportunities I am getting to talk to people about my work and study plans. I need to think more about how to frame the conversation in such a way that I can talk of my love for Jesus and his people; which are really the driving motivations behind my plans