Feast upon the Word Blog

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Sunday School Lesson #16

Posted by Jim F. on April 24, 2007

NOTE: FOR THE MOST RECENT, UPDATED VERSION OF THESE NOTES, GO TO : http://feastupontheword.org/Site:SS_lessons#New_Testament_lessons

 

Lesson 16: John 9-10

This should help me stay ahead for a while.

Chapter 9

Verse 1: Chapter 8 ends with the phrase “passed by” and chapter 9 begins with those words. Did the events of chapters 9-10 happen as Jesus was leaving the temple precincts, or did they occur later? (See verses 2 and 14 for some clues.) Why is it important that the man has been blind since birth? As you read the story, ask yourself, How we are like the blind man: in what ways are we or have we been blind from birth? How do we come to see? What do we see when we have been healed?

Verses 2-5: How could the disciples believe that the man’s sins could be responsible for his blindness since he was born blind? What do you make of the fact that over and over again we see Jesus ignoring general, hypothetical, and legal questions such as the question that the disciples ask? (See also, e.g., Luke 10:25ff. and John 8:3ff.) What does he deal with instead? How does Jesus explain the man’s blindness? Does he say that is a complete explanation? As you read the rest of this story, ask yourself what works of God are made manifest through this healing. What night might Jesus be speaking of in verse 4? Light is that by which we see things and which makes it possible for us to do our work. Is Jesus the light by which we see the world? What would it mean for that to be true? Given the symbolism of verse 4-5, what can we conclude will be the case if we do not see the world by his light?

Verses 6-7: Do you see any symbolic meaning in the spit and the clay with which Jesus anoints the man’s eyes? The Siloam pool (also translated as “the waters of Shiloah” in Isaiah 8:6) was the pool from which the water for the Feast of the Tabernacles was drawn and that Jesus seems to have used symbolically in his sermon at that feast. (See John 7:37-38.) Why does John stop to tell us that the name “Siloam” means “sent” (which is perhaps inaccurate)? Does the name have anything to do with the story? Is the comparison to Elijah sending Namaan to wash in the river Jordan (2 Kings 5) intentional?

Verses 8-12: Who is questioning the man who has been healed? The word here translated “neighbor” means, etymologically, “one who shares the earth.” To whom do you think that word refers in this verse? In verse 11, the man describes Jesus as “a man that is called Jesus.” What does this tell us about the healed man’s relation to Jesus? Why might those who question him want to know where Jesus is?

Verses 13-17: Why do the man’s interrogators take him to the Pharisees? Why does John think it is important to tell us that Jesus performed this miracle on the Sabbath? Why does Jesus do so many of his miracles on the Sabbath? What division do we see in verse 16 and what does that tell us about these events? What does it suggest about the Pharisees? Why do they keep badgering the man who was healed (verse 17)? How does the man’s answer at the end of verse 17 compare with his description of Jesus at the beginning of verse 11? What does the statement in verse 17 tell us about how the man’s understanding has changed? What has brought about that change? Is the man’s change of understanding perhaps one of the godly works that is to be shown by his healing? How does our understanding of Jesus and our relation to him change?

Verses 18-23: Notice that those referred to as “the Pharisees” are now referred to as “the Jews.” What does that tell us about the term “the Jews” in John’s gospel? Why do the Pharisees ask his parents about the man and why do his parents hold back from saying how he was healed? Being blind, the man would have already been ritually outcast; now that he is healed, he is in danger of continuing to be outcast. How might the Pharisees have put people out of the synagogue? (Formal excommunication seems to have been rare at this time.) Do we ever put people out of the church? In what ways?

Verses 24-27: What is going on in verse 24? When the Pharisees say that Jesus is a sinner, what are they saying about him? Why does the man stand fast (verse 25)? Why not simply do as they’ve asked and give God the praise? What would be the harm? What do we see about the man’s understanding of the Pharisees in verse 27? What does the word “also” in the man’s question of the Pharisees (verse 27) suggest?

Verses 28-29: Compare what the Pharisees say in response to John 1:17. What point is John making in these two verses? By what light do the Pharisees see? To what are they blind?

Verses 30-34: What gives the man the courage to argue with the Pharisees as he does? What does he find amazing (“marvellous” in the King James translation)? Has his understanding of Jesus changed since he declared Jesus to be a prophet (verse 17)? How do the Pharisees explain the man’s blindness? Is it significant that they give an answer to the disciples’ question but Jesus did not?

Verses 35-38: Why does Jesus search out the man? A better translation of the Greek word translated “believe” in verses 35 and 36 would be “trust in.” What does verse 35 tell us about the man’s understanding of Jesus? How do you think the man is using the word “lord” in verse 36? Is he using it differently in verse 38? What explains the change in understanding that we see in these verses?

Verse 39: Explain Jesus’ summary of the meaning of this event in your own words.

Verses 40-41 : Under the circumstances, it is difficult to believe that the Pharisees didn’t know whether Jesus was talking about them. Why, then, do they ask whether Jesus is calling them blind? Why does saying “we see” mean that their sin remains? What would have taken away that sin?

Chapter 10

As you read these two comparisons—Jesus is the Shepherd; Jesus is the Door—ask yourself how they are connected to the event of chapter 9. How do they continue the same theme?

Verses 1-6: One scholar suggests that “verily, verily” (verse 1—literally “amen, amen”) is used when Jesus is going to talk about something that he has already spoken of and he is going to expand on what he said before. (See Jerome Biblical Commentary 2:445.) Assuming that is true, where have we already seen this teaching and how does Jesus expand on it? (Compare John 8:47 with verse 4.) What point is he making by talking about thieves and robbers in verses 1-2? (The distinction between “thief” and “robber” is similar to our distinction between shoplifter and armed robber.) Do you think that Jesus has Ezekiel 34:1-16 in mind when he tells this parable? How would the Pharisees have responded to that comparison had they understood it?

Verses 7-19: In the past Jesus has been content to teach the disciples what his parables meant, but to leave the Pharisees in ignorance. Why does he now tell them explicitly what he meant? How can Jesus be both the gate and the shepherd in the parable? (See verses 7 and 11.) Does the fact that he can be both teach us something about how to interpret parables? Who are “all that ever came before me” (verse 8 )? How would his listeners have understood verse 11? How do we understand it? Who might Jesus be talking about when he refers to the hireling (verses 12-13)? What does verse 13 say distinguishes the real shepherd from the hireling? For whom is the hireling concerned? The word translated “good” (verse 14) means not only good, but also “morally praiseworthy” and “noble.” What makes Jesus the good shepherd? We understand that verse 16 refers to the descendants of Lehi, but how would the Pharisees have understood what Jesus says here? How would the disciples and the early Church understand this verse? How do you explain the difference between verse 16 and Matthew 15:24? There is a word play in Greek at the end of verse 16. We can translate that word play approximately like this: “there shall be one sheep-herd, one shepherd.” What point is Jesus making with that word play? How are verses 15 and 17 related to each other? To what does “this commandment” refer? to what he has said in verses 17-18 or to something else? Almost the whole of the Pharisees’ religious focus was on the commandments. How is Jesus teaching them something different in this parable and its explanation? What is he teaching them?

Verses 19-21: Once again we see the division among the Jews (i.e., among the leaders such as the Pharisees). Why does John think it is important that we know about that division?

Verses 22-39: The Feast of Dedication (known today as Hanukkah) occurs in mid-December. It celebrates the rededication of the temple altar by the Maccabees in the 2nd century B.C. It was also called “the Feast of Lights,” ostensibly in remembrance of the oil that miraculously continued to burn in the temple candelabra even after they should have burned out, but (according to Josephus) more in recognition of the freedom that the Jews gained, “the light of liberty.”

Several months have passed since the events of chapters 7-8. Perhaps that time passed between chapters 8 and 9. Perhaps it passed after the parable of the Good Shepherd and its discussion (John 10:1-21). Why does John juxtapose these events that occur at different times? What question do the leaders have (verse 24)? Jesus has never publicly declared that he is the Christ, in other words, the Messiah. Why do they demand that he tell them whether he is? How is their demand like the demand of Jesus’ brothers (John 7:3-5)? How might the demands be different? When Jesus says “I told you,” what is he talking about? What has he told them? How has he told them? Why is it important to tell these questioners that no one can take Jesus’ sheep from him (verses 28-29)? Verse 30 seems to be offered as an explanation of verses 28-29. How does it explain them? What do you make of the irony of Jesus response in verse 32? In verses 34-36, Jesus defends himself against the charge of blasphemy. What is his argument? (Compare Psalms 82:6.) The word translated “sanctified” (verse 36) could also be translated “dedicated.” It is the same word used in the scripture for the Hanukkah lesson in the synagogue, Numbers 7:1. How is what Jesus teaches here related to the feast being celebrated? What is Jesus telling the leaders in the first clause of verse 38? How do Jesus’ works show that the Father and the Son are in each other? Given what we see in these verses, what does it mean to say that the Father is in the Son and the Son is in the Father?

Verses 40-42: John begins the story of Jesus’s public ministry at the place on the Jordan where John was baptizing. He ends the story of Jesus’s public ministry by telling us that Jesus returned to that spot. Why does he go back to the site of his baptism before he begins the final stage of his ministry, the stage that culminates in his death and resurrection?

7 Responses to “Sunday School Lesson #16”

  1. Ben McGuire said

    My interpretation of John 10’s use of Psalm 82 can be found here:

    http://www.fairlds.org/Bible/Reconsidering_Psalms_82_6.html

  2. Robert C. said

    Ben, thanks for the link to your article, very interesting!

    I wasn’t clear on the scholarly view on Jesus’ interpretation of of Psalm 82—is this typically viewed more as a misinterpretation or simply a reinterpretation with “a deeper meaning,” as I think you put it?

    Joe, from our discussion of Hebrews 1 a while back (and your interest in Barker’s work on angels), I think you’ll be quite interested in scholarship on this passage (John 10:34ff). In particular, the WBC, in discussing one interpretation, says the following:

    Those addressed as “gods” are angelic powers who had authority over the nations but misused it. J. A. Emerton has shown that such was the probable understanding of the LXX translators in their rendering of Ps 82, and quite certainly that of the Peshitta translators, who rendered El in v 1a and Elohim in 1b by the term malke, “angels” (“Sortie New Testament Notes,” 331). Fundamentally this was adopted in the Qumran community, but with an astonishing modification: the opening sentence of the psalm is viewed as spoken by Melchizedek. The Melchizedek fragment reads, “… it is written concerning him in the hymns of David, who says, ‘The heavenly one standeth in the congregation of God; among the holy ones he judgeth,’ and concerning him he says, ‘Above them return thou on high; God shall judge the nations.’ And that which he says: ‘How long will ye judge unjustly and accept the persons of the wicked? Selah’: its interpretation concerns Belial and the spirits of his lot …” (translation by de Jonge and van der Woude, “1Q Melchizedek and the New Testament,” 303). In this passage Melchizedek is viewed as an angel, with the title of God; and those addressed as “gods” and “sons of the Highest.” but who act unjustly in the world, are apparently evil angels (“Belial and the spirits of his lot”).

    Emerton was strongly inclined to see this third understanding of the text as assumed in John 10:34–36: if angels, fallen or unfallen, could be termed “gods.” how much more rightly Jesus! (“Melchizedek and the Gods,” 399–401). The interpretation would he strengthened if the contrast included that between Jesus and Melchizedek: the latter, who is above the other angels, is expected by the Qumran monks to destroy the powers of evil and save the people of God, but Jesus is greater than Melchizedek, and is the true Son of God, one with God. De Jonge and van der Woude, in their discussion of the Melchizedek text, consider this possibility, but reject it by reason of a serious difficulty: the context in the Fourth Gospel makes no mention of angels. V 33 makes a clear contrast between god and men, but nowhere in this Gospel do heavenly beings, like those portrayed in 1Q Melch, play a role of any importance (unlike, e.g., the Letter to the Hebrews; see “1Q Melchizedek,” 313–14).

    [Beasley-Murray, G. R. (2002). Vol. 36: Word Biblical Commentary : John. Word Biblical Commentary (176). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.]

    (Since I’m not familiar with the “Melchizedek fragment” of the Dead Sea scrolls, I did a search and found this interesting page with a brief description and several links which I haven’t explored yet, and this article by Kerry Shirts giving an LDS perspective. Also, Joe, this Qumranic view of Melchizedek seems to bear some interesting similarities to your work on D&C 85—thoughts? You should probably respond on the wiki rather than here….)

  3. Hmmm…. Got me thinking….

  4. cherylem said

    Ben #1,
    This is an interesting piece. While you and I have talked about this previously, I still have to think about this.

    In one of my first classes at U of M in Near Eastern Studies (prof. Krahlmakov), I was taught a long segment on the council of the gods in Near Eastern thought. Those classes keep butting in when I’m reading your paper. So to me the Psalm seems almost pagan in origin.

    Didn’t you address this once or twice with me? Can you do a [brief] repeat?

  5. JWL said

    Of course, any discussion of these passages should also take note of Dan Peterson’s opus at http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/bookschapter.php?bookid=&chapid=258

  6. brianj said

    JWL: “opus” indeed! Thanks for the link (I’ll admit that I skimmed a bit…).

  7. brianj said

    A quick thought about the parable of the Good Shepherd:

    One thing I dislike about many interpretations of this parable is the tendency to over-romanticize the difference between a shepherd and a hired hand. A shepherd, as this interpretation goes, is said to love his sheep, as evidenced by his care for them, knowing them each by name, protecting them, even being willing to give up his life for his sheep. The hired hand, in contrast, is only in it for the money.

    The problem I have with this is that it ignores the reasons why someone would keep sheep, which are (to be blunt) to steal their hair (wool) and eat their babies (lamb chops, anyone?). The shepherd bothers to know his sheep (by name or sight) because he wants to keep them separate from other flocks in the pasture, not because he considers them his “friends.” And he risks his life for his sheep because the sheep are his livelihood—he can’t afford to lose his flock to a wolf or thief or whatever. The hired hand, in contrast, can always move on to other work if the flock he is guarding is lost.

    Reading the parable this way—that the a shepherd needs to protect his flock because it is his source of income—makes me think about the Good Shepherd differently. A shepherd without sheep cannot survive; are we, in some way, as crucial to the Good Shepherd?

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