Reflections for 11/13: Who Is Jesus for John the Evangelist?

God is King.  Jesus is God.  Jesus is King.

Much of Scripture contributes to the understanding of God’s kingship.  God reigns supreme over the universe establishing His authority through the various chaos struggles and subsequent enthronements that have been highlighted throughout this course (Genesis, the Flood, Exodus, some ways of thinking about Exile etc.).   The problem becomes how we are to interpret the monarchy of Israel in conjunction with God’s kingship.

Reading Scripture through the lens of John’s introduction makes it clear that Jesus is God.  Jesus is the Word which in Genesis (the “In the beginning” that starts John also starts Genesis) is the instrument of God’s Creation.  In this same way the personified Wisdom within the Psalms acts as a creative force.  But John goes beyond this simple understanding.  There are three ways the word “was” is used in the introduction (as noted in the CSB notes).  The first indicates the Word’s existence at the beginning.  In this way Jesus is eternal which means He was not created by God but is God (1:3 repeats this idea).  The second indicates the Word’s relationship with God.  Jesus is personally connected with God (I take God here to mean the Father although admittedly the language should be more precise) which is also emphasized by the claims Jesus makes throughout John (and in the other Gospels).  The third makes it altogether clear that the Word and God are the same.  All of this recounts Genesis to explain a proto-Trinitarian theology.  The problem this ends with is why Jesus was also man.

The solution to these two problems is that Jesus is the legitimate King of Israel.  Azar persuasively argues that John is not, as some scholars assert, avoiding the issue of Jesus’ kingship.  Pilate’s presentation of Jesus to the people, in the way it recalls 1st Samuel, makes intelligible all of Pilate’s actions during the Passion narrative.  Pilate is unwittingly confirming that Jesus is in fact king as he tried to mock Jesus.  He presents Jesus in the same way Samuel presents Saul, he has soldiers put a crown on Him, and he puts a sign in three languages (which may indicate universality according to Azar) that calls Jesus “King of the Jews” and won’t revise it to say “He claimed to be King of the Jews.”  One can, as Azar does, explain some other aspects of Jesus’ actions before the Passion and the People’s responses during the Passion as influenced by this theme.

This solves the problems by explaining that Jesus came down from heaven with the purpose of resolving one more chaos story (perhaps once and for all).  He comes to become the king and so to be enthroned.  He is not a merely human king whom Ezekiel or Saul can legitimately be concerned will detract from the Divine king, but rather since He is God His sovereignty is united with God’s sovereignty.  But how is Jesus enthroned and how does He defeat chaos? To a Jew familiar with His story it would seem He failed.  He certainly didn’t inflict any plagues on any Romans, or wrestle with chaos monsters.  He died.  But His death was His victory and His enthronement was on a cross.

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