Monday, April 30, 2012

John, Chapter 13: When is it alright for men to bathe each other?

It's now just before Passover, and Jesus knows he's got to die this weekend. First, god lets the devil enter Judas Iscariot's heart. Then, Jesus takes off his robe and wraps a towel around his waist. He washes the disciples' feet and dries them with same. Simon Peter gets a little squicky at the erotic overtones of another man washing his feet and tries to refuse. Jesus informs him that he doesn't get it and if he doesn't accept this foot bath, he can't go to heaven. Peter takes a deep breath and asks him to wash everything, then. Jesus, who, mind, used to tell us it isn't necessary to wash our hands before eating, stays true to form and says if you've had a bath recently you only need to clean your feet in between. He informs the disciples that most of them are clean enough, but not all, meaning Judas. Then he puts his clothes back on and tells them to wash each others' feet from now on.

Now he starts to talk about his own death, a subject he never, ever gets tired of. He explains that one of them is going to betray him. Of course they want to know who, and he draws it out as long and dramatically as possible, dipping a piece of bread in the gravy and saying the person he passes it to will be the one to betray him, then handing it to Judas, rather than just saying 'Judas will do the deed.' Judas eats the bread, which allows Satan to enter into his body, again. Jesus asks him to get it over with quickly.

Even now that Jesus has explained what is going to happen, the disciples still don't get it. Some of them think Jesus is instructing Judas to buy provisions for the feast, others think he's telling him to give alms to the poor. Regardless, Judas leaves right away.

As soon as he's gone, Jesus tells the others he has a new commandment for them: That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. (v. 34) He says he has to go away soon, and they can't come after him yet. Peter gets a bit whiny, asking why he can't go now, and swearing he would lay down his life for him. Jesus mocks him and says he'll deny him three times that night.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

John, Chapter 12: Celebrity Stalking

Jesus goes over to Lazarus' house for dinner, and things immediately go weird. As they're eating, Lazarus' sister Mary brings in a freaking pound of expensive perfume and rubs it all over Jesus' feet, rubbing it in with her hair. This makes the entire house stink, because you're only supposed to use a few drops, not the whole brick. Judas, his supper ruined, asks why the perfume couldn't have been sold and the money distributed to the poor. Only by now, 60 years after all these events supposedly took place, Judas no longer cares about the poor. Now he's a thief who's been pilfering from the disciples' moneybag, and he wants the three hundred pence for himself. Also, the disciples now have a moneybag. I seem to recall Jesus specifically telling them  not to carry money in the other gospels. Oh, yes, there we go: Luke 9:3, Mark 6:8, Matthew 10:9: Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts. Funny how things change when you have an agenda and there's no one to refute you. Jesus tells him to knock it off, the perfume is for his burial and there will always be poor people.

Dinner is further ruined by the arrival of a bunch of gawkers eager for a glimpse of the famous Jesus and Lazarus. The priests debate whether to kill Lazarus as well, since so many people now believe in Jesus thanks to him.

The next day, everybody heads to Jerusalem in hopes of seeing the celebrity preacher. On the way, they grab a bunch of palm fronds and wave them around in the air shouting Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord (v. 13). Which I guess is where Palm Sunday comes from. Jesus himself enters the city riding the colt of an ass, because that is somehow important, prophecy-wise. Nobody will understand why until after he's gone.

As Jesus is riding into town, his disciples and the people who saw the Lazarus routine tell the story to anyone and everyone who will listen. People crowd closer to the spectacle. Among them are some Greeks, which I guess is an attempt to explain why a book about an illiterate Aramaic speaker from the Galilee is written in that language, specifically Philip and Andrew. All this worries the Pharisees.

And what does Jesus want to talk about? Death. What else? As he's praying, a voice seems to come down from heaven, convincing people even further. It doesn't stop Jesus though, because once he's on his favourite subject, it's well nigh impossible to get him to talk about anything else. The people try their darndest, though, asking him who this son of man is. His reply is a confusing parable about light and dark and when is the best time to go for a walk. Then he leaves for an undisclosed location. The people are not convinced, despite his many miracles. Why not? Well, god is up to his old trick of hardening hearts against himself.

Although Jesus has not had much success with the common people, apparently many of the high priests have secretly converted, but haven't said anything publicly for fear of the Pharisees' reaction.

Meanwhile, wherever he is, Jesus is lamenting the peoples' stubborn, god-hardened hearts. He swears he isn't here to judge the world, but to bring peace, and all the judgement will be left up to god.

Monday, April 23, 2012

John, Chapter 11

Lazarus is sick. We've never met Lazarus before, but we did meet his sisters Mary and Martha back in Luke. The sisters send word to Jesus to come and heal their brother. His reply is kind of heartless: This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby. (v. 4) And then it gets worse: as Lazarus is getting sicker and sicker, he hangs out for another two days before casually suggesting to his disciples that maybe they ought to swing through Judea again. The disciples are against this plan, pointing out that the last time they went there, the Jews wanted to stone him. He says the hour of his death has not yet arrived, so chill. 

A bit later, Jesus informs the disciples that Lazarus is sleeping and he needs to go and wake him. They tell him to just let the poor guy rest, so he explains that Lazarus has died and they need to go. They agree to go, even though they fear the Jews will finish off that stoning they started. When they arrive, they discover that Lazarus has already been dead for 4 days.

Lazarus' sisters hear that Jesus has arrived. Mary sulks in the house, but Martha goes forth to rebuke him for not saving their brother and to ask him to ask god to do something. Jesus promises that Lazarus will rise again. Martha's all yeah, right, when the end of the world comes. But Jesus says I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? (v. 25-26) Martha strokes his ego and says yes, then leaves to find her sister.

Mary is sitting at home with a group of ritual mourners and is all too happy to leave when her sister arrives to whisper that Jesus wants to talk to her. The mourners, feeling like they haven't earned their keep quite yet, deduct that she's going to cry by the grave again and follow her. Mary also rebukes Jesus for not being there, which sparks just the tiniest bit of guilt in him. He asks where the grave is, and even manages to squeeze out a tear, which convinces the Jews that he really does love them, and maybe he could even have saved Lazarus?

They come to the cave where Lazarus is buried and Jesus instructs Martha to move the stone covering the entrance. She protests that by now the body stinks. Jesus points out that she said she believed earlier, so she moves the stone. Jesus says a short prayer and shouts Lazarus, come forth. (v. 43) and he does! In his funeral clothes.

Now, some of the people who saw this become Jesus' followers, but others go and tell the Pharisees, who have been oddly absent in this chapter. The Pharisees have a meeting and point out that if they let Jesus continue, everyone will believe in him and the Romans will take their country away. Caiaphas scoffs that they dont' realise it's better to let one person die than to lose all their land. He predicts that Jesus will die for their nation and diaspora. They make the decision to kill him. This causes Jesus to go into hiding, even missing his favourite ritual of going to Jerusalem during Passover to shriek at people in the temple. They kinda miss him but the priests have ordered his arrest if he shows up.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

John, Chapter 10

Parable time: Anyone who enters your sheepfold by climbing over the fence is a thief, but people who go through the gate are shepherds. It's a foolproof system! Actually, there are other ways to figure out if a so-called shepherd is legit or not: if he says bah ram ewe and the sheep respond, he's good, but they won't respond to a stranger. The people must look confused, because nobody likes riddles. So Jesus explains: everyone that came before him was a thief, he's the gate. He also says I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep (v. 11), even though he literally just said he was a gate. He explains further that hired shepherds will flee when they see a wolf, but not him because he's got a permanent contract. He also says that his death will be voluntary, and he has the power to resurrect himself as well. This causes the Jews to wonder if he's not crazy.

Now it's a feast day and Jesus is sitting on a porch at the temple. Some Jews approach him and ask him outright if he's the Messiah. He says he did tell them, but they aren't his sheep, so they didn't listen. He also says he's god. They do not like that, so they pick up stones. Jesus points out that all of his good works are divine, so which one, exactly, are they stoning him for? They say it isn't for his good works, it's for claiming divinity. Jesus points out that the book of Psalms says Ye are gods (v. 34). He also tells them they don't have to believe in him, but they ought to believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him (v. 38). 

This proves the last straw, and the Jews try to capture him, but he runs off to the place on the River Jordan where he first met John the Baptist, where he converts more people.

Monday, April 9, 2012

John, Chapter 9: Injustice is blind

Jesus passes by a man who's been blind since birth. The disciples ask Jesus who the sinner was, the man or his parents? 1) The guy is blind, not deaf or mentally handicapped, assholes. 2) What sin can a fetus do that warrants blinding? Jesus' answer is hardly comforting: the guy is blind so that Jesus can demonstrate his heavenly powers right here, right now. And what is the miracle? Not inventing ophthalmology, like you might expect. Rather, he spits in the mud, makes a paste, puts it on the guy's eyes, then tells him to wash it off in the pool of Siloam. And of course, he can finally see. People are skeptical, and ask him how he got his sight back. He tells them his story. They ask where Jesus is, but he doesn't know. So they take him to the Pharisees, claiming all this happened on the sabbath. The Pharisees can't decide if Jesus is a god or a sinner, so they call the guy's parents, who confirm that this is their son, but say he's of age and can speak for himself. So what this book is telling us is, god made this dude blind for over 21 years just so Jesus could do a miracle today. That's the shittiest story in this book. Oh, and why won't the parents say it was Jesus? Because the Jews have threatened to kick anyone who calls him the Christ (Greek for Messiah) out of the synagogue. So there's racism, too. This story just gets better and better. The Pharisees recall the newly-sighted man to ask him again how he can see, and try to cajole him into admitting that Jesus is a sinner. The guy says he can't testify to Jesus' sinfulness, all he knows is that he was blind and now can see, and why do they keep asking? Do they secretly want to be disciples, too? This pisses the Pharisees off, because they have no sense of humour, and they say that they aren't Jesus' disciples, but Moses'. The guy points out that in all the history of the world so far, no one has cured blindness except Jesus. Only god could do that. This is the final straw for the Pharisees, who excommunicate him on the spot. He goes to find Jesus, and tells him he believes he's divine. The Pharisees overhear, and ask if they're also blind? Jesus says not blind, but guilty.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

John, Chapter 8: How to get stoned

Jesus goes up the Mount of Olives, only to come down again the next day. Like me, he must have found that that was the only place with affordable accommodation. In the temple, the Pharisees approach him with an adulterous woman in tow. They inform him that they caught her in the act, because they're a bunch of dirty old men, and remind him that under Mosaic law, they have to stone her to death. So what should they do? It's all a ruse, of course, to catch Jesus blaspheming. He knows it, so he ignores them and starts writing in the dirt with his finger. But they keep hassling him, so finally he says He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. (v. 7) Something I agree with John about! If only he wasn't so racist for the entire rest of the book, including in just a few verses. Embarrassed, because Jesus really did get them good there, the Pharisees and the rest of the audience slink off, leaving Jesus alone with the woman. He tells her to go home and stop sinning. When the audience comes back, Jesus informs them I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. (v. 12) They call him a liar and he denies it and says he's not here to judge, but if he WAS, his father would be his second witness, and according to Mosaic law, if two men say the same thing, it must be true. They ask him where this father is then, and he says they don't know him. Then he starts talking about death, because when you're an apocalypticist, there is nothing more fun than talking about the end of the world. The Jews think he's talking about killing himself, but he keeps rambling on about heaven and earth and sin and redemption. But they don't get it, and they won't until he's been resurrected. He promises that people who believe in him will become his disciples and that the truth shall make you free. (v. 32) Again, this proves a head-scratcher, as none of them has ever been enslaved, so how can they be set free? This is what not going to college breeds, people, regardless of what Rick Santorum tells you. He says that believing in him will set them free, but also that they'll kill him, because they're imitating their fathers. They protest that they're not illegitimate, and god is their father. Jesus tries not to smack himself in the forehead and explains that if they really believed in god, they wouldn't kill him. He asks why they don't understand them, then answers himself that they can't hear him. He also explains that their father is the devil and they follow his example of killing and lying. Oddly, this does not win him any new converts. Rather, the Pharisees accuse him of being possessed. Jesus denies being possessed, he just says he's honouring his father, not seeking glory. He promises eternal life to his followers, which just convinces his audience even more that he's insane. He insists again that he isn't and that he met Abraham. They ask him how this is possible, and he said he met him in heaven. Finally they decide enough is enough and decide to stone him, but he escapes in disguise.

Monday, April 2, 2012

John, Chapter 7: Pissing like a race horse

Jesus leaves for the Galilee because it's part of Judea and the Jews want to kill him. Oh yeah. John is kind of an anti-Semite. Now it's Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles. All I know about the holiday comes from watching Ushpizin, which is a great film if you can find it. Jesus' companions urge him to go to Judea and reveal himself to the world, but he claims the time isn't right, and besides, nobody there likes him. But as soon as they leave, he follows them in secret. At the feast, people wonder at his absence. Some of them support him, others do not, but no one will say anything overtly about him for fear of the Jews (v. 13). Thanks for the next 2000 years, John. Mid-feast, Jesus makes his appearance at the temple and starts teaching. The people marvel, because he's illiterate. Jesus says that his readings are divinely inspired. Yuh-huh. Just like Joseph Smith and Mohammed. He urges them to stop sinning, follow the doctrine, and for god's sake, stop trying to kill him. They call him crazy and ask who's trying to kill him. He says it's because he healed that guy on the sabbath several chapters ago, even though they perform circumcisions on the sabbath. A couple of people from Jerusalem recognise him, and wonder if the leaders know he's the Christ. They also think he can't be the Messiah, because the Messiah is supposed to just appear out of nowhere, and they know where Jesus is from. Jesus says they're half right: they know where he came from, but they don't know god. They try to grab him, but can't because it's not the hour of death quite yet. This increases the number of believers and irks the Pharisees, who join the group baying for his head. Jesus taunts them that he's not long for this world, and then he's going somewhere they won't be able to follow. They mull that one over for awhile. On the last day of the feast, Jesus stands up and says if anyone else is thirsty, they should come and see him, then promises He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (v. 38) Did he invent the Porta Potty? No, apparently he is promising the Holy Spirit, which hasn't arrived yet, as Jesus is still alive. Whatever he's saying, it causes more people to believe in him. Others remain skeptical, pointing out that the Christ is supposed to come out of Bethlehem, not the Galilee. This divides the people, some of whom want to arrest him. However, they don't, which irritates the Pharisees when they arrive with reinforcements. The local police are kind of awed into submission. The Pharisees point out that neither they nor the head priests believe in Jesus, just this rabble. Nicodemus points out that they should at least try Jesus and not rush to judgement. The Pharisees sarcastically ask if he's also from the Galilee, and point out that no prophets are prophesied to come out of the Galilee. Everyone retreats, sulkily, into his own house.