Thursday, July 15, 2010

313: Jesus Makes More Zombies

John 11-12
"When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, 'Lazarus, come out!' The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, 'Take off the grave clothes and let him go.' " - John 11:43-44

The entirety of chapter 11 is about Jesus healing Lazarus (no, not that Lazarus). The story starts out with Lazarus getting sick (we're not told what kind of sickness). His sisters (Mary and Martha) send word to Jesus. John seems to assume that we already know about Mary from the gospel of Luke, introducing her as the woman who wiped Jesus's feet with her hair (which is only aforementioned in the gospel of Luke). The word the sisters send is simply "the one you love is sick". Jesus, apparently feeling omniscient today, knows that the messenger means Lazarus. Jesus says that this sickness will not end in death.

Jesus, instead of going and healing Lazarus, stays put for two more days. Lazarus, sometime in this two days, dies. Jesus somehow knows that Lazarus has died, and tells the disciples that now they can go see Lazarus. So much for "this sickness will not end in death".

Jesus and his disciples arrive at the home of Mary and Martha, who are mourning the death of Lazarus. They both mention that Lazarus would not have died if Jesus were there. Jesus asks where they've buried Lazarus (doesn't he know?). Mary tells him to come and see, and Jesus starts weeping. What? What's he crying about? He's the one that let Lazarus die so he could show everyone how awesome he is. It doesn't seem like there's anything (from Jesus's point of view) to cry about.

When Jesus makes it to Lazarus's tomb, he tells Mary and Martha to open it up. Martha advises against it, because Lazarus will be stinky after 4 days. Jesus talks them into opening up the tomb. He then says a rambling, seemingly pointless, prayer to god:
Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.
Why did that help them believe? Jesus then shouts for Lazarus to come out of his tomb. "The dead man", the bible says, comes out of the tomb. Is he still dead? Is Jesus somehow animating this guy's dead body? That's what the bible's wording would imply.

As a result of this resurrection, the priests have a meeting about Jesus. The priests seem concerned that if everyone believes in him the Romans will take away their nation. The high priest says that they know nothing, but then seems to concur with them, saying "You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish." Is this guy supposed to be the antagonist? He seems to be saying the exact same thing that Jesus is saying. Namely that Jesus will die so that the Jews won't "perish". They have different motives, but both the priests and Jesus seem to be working toward the same goal (ensuring the wellbeing of the Jewish people).

Chapter 12 starts with the story of Jesus being anointed with expensive perfume. John's version has a different connotation than the story in the other gospels. This time we are told that the woman who pours the expensive perfume is Mary. And this time the only disciple that objects to this is Judas. Judas, we are told, is the keeper of the money. Therefore, when he says the money should have gone to the poor, he's really just trying to line his own pocketbook.

Jesus responds similarly to the other gospels, saying that the poor will always be around, but Jesus won't be. Therefore, I guess, it's ok to deprive the poor so that you can smell good. I don't find that the point is any less valid just because Judas is bringing it up for nefarious purposes. It seems John added this extra information (considering none of the other gospels say any of this), in an attempt to soften the blow of Jesus being an inconsistent ass hole.

Next is Jesus's triumphal entry into Jerusalem. John completely omits the story of how Jesus obtained the donkey (yes, it's back to being a donkey, not a colt) he rides into town on. Instead, John just says that Jesus "found" the donkey. I guess "found" sounds better than "sent his disciples to steal". During this triumphal entry, Lazarus is constantly alongside Jesus. In fact, John says, a large portion of the crowd has gathered just to see Lazarus. This begs the question, why didn't the other three gospels ever mention Lazarus?

Jesus goes on to preach in Jerusalem. During this preaching he says "unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds". This is an obvious metaphor for Jesus's death and resurrection, but it seems to reveal a complete lack of understanding of how seeds work. Doesn't Jesus know that seeds don't die before they grow into a new plant?

Jesus also says, in his preaching, that his heart is unsettled. However, he says that he will not ask God to save him from "this hour" (surely referring to the crucifixion). Interestingly, this is the very thing he asks of God in the other gospels (Luke 22:42, for example). Following this proclamation, a "voice" is heard from heaven. Many of the witnesses, says John, thought this "voice" sounded a lot like thunder.

The chapter ends with John talking about how the people will not believe in Jesus, to fulfill the prophecies in Isaiah. Why is God condemning people to hell (for not believing in Jesus) to fulfill a vague prophecy in Isaiah?

Do we get guilt from God? Billy Graham thinks so:
Guilt in the deepest sense comes from the knowledge that we have done wrong, not just in the eyes of others, but in the eyes of God.
You see, God put within each of us a sense of right and wrong, and he also has told us in the Bible how we ought to live.
I can think of a plethora of reasons that someone would feel guilty for non-biblical reasons. You're in a gang and the leader tells you to kill someone. You don't and you feel guilty. Did God come down and imbue you with that guilt?
Down inside we know it’s wrong to hurt others, or to commit immorality, or to lie or cheat or steal. When we fail to meet God’s moral standards, we feel guilty, and we should, because we are guilty.
Unfortunately, guilt is not a universal feeling. A WHO defined disorder called "dissocial personality disorder" is characterized by, among other things, the "Incapacity to experience guilt and to profit from experience". Did God somehow miss these people when imbuing people with guilt?

Also, Billy Graham's definition of "immorality" surely includes homosexuality. I hope he realizes that there are plenty of people that guiltlessly participate in homosexuality. Again, did God somehow pass over these people when he was giving humanity a universal sense of right and wrong? Or perhaps Billy will take this as evidence that homosexuality is, in fact, not wrong. Somehow I doubt that.
But God still loves us, in spite of our guilt. He loves us so much that he sent his only Son, Jesus Christ, from heaven so we could be forgiven and cleansed of our sins.
I'm still not convinced that anything has changed as a result of Jesus's arrival. God seems to be able to choose who can and cannot follow Jesus, and makes these decisions with the same sort of arbitrary disregard as he did in the Old Testament days. I guess I still have a couple of months to be convinced.


  1. Yes, that Lazarus. John has taken 3 unrelated periscopes from Luke and conflated them into a single story. First we have Luke 10:38-42, in which Jesus is welcomed into the home of a Mary and Martha, seemingly for the first time. Where this village was located is not indicated, but there's no reason to think it's in Judea, considering that Jesus doesn't travel there in the Synoptics until his final trip to Jerusalem. Mary is said to sit at Jesus' feet, which is probably why John made the association between her and the woman in Luke 7:30-50. There's also no mention of Lazarus in Luke's account of Mary and Martha, nor is there any indication given that they live with anyone else.

    The second story used by John is the woman who wipes Jesus' feet with her hair, in Lk 7. That story, which was based on Mark 14:2-11, John uses as both a source of inspiration for Jn 11:2, but also for John's retelling of the anointing in Jn 12:1-11. John's mention of Mary having used her hair to wipe his feet could be intended as referring back to Lk 7, or as a reference to his own version, 12:1-11, except he mixed up the order. Actually, 11:3 seems to indicate that the reason why the sisters contacted Jesus for help was that he was familiar with Mary from when she wiped her hair on his feet, which would imply that Mary had done this twice! The first reference in John 11:3 is to the Gospel of Luke's version, which is then followed by John's repetition of this story, combined with Mark's version. Note that in Mark, the house of Simon the Leper, where the woman who Jesus anointed with perfume, is said to be in Bethany, which is where John got the idea for setting the story there.

    Finally, John works in the story of Lazarus, from Luke 16:19-31. The origin is obvious: in both John and Luke, Lazarus dies (of some unknown disease), there's talk of raising Lazarus from the dead (which John makes actually happen in his story), and also of whether the raising of Lazarus from the dead is sufficient to convince the Jews that Jesus is the Christ (no in Luke 16:31, perhaps in John 16:9-11). Except there's one crucial difference: The story of Lazarus in Luke is just a parable! (Moreover, it's one that Jesus tells long before he gets near to Bethany. so Jesus couldn't have based the parable on his real life experience.) Thus conclusively demonstrating that the account in John is fictional as well (as if there were any doubt).

  2. John 12

    John 12:1. In John the anointing takes place 6 days before Passover, whereas in Mark (14:1-3), it appears to take place at the earliest 2 days before Passover.

    Either that or Jesus was anointed twice within the last few days before Passover, with both times somebody complaining about the waste of expensive perfume, and both times him reminding them that they'll always have the poor with them. Not very likely.

    John 12:2. Was Martha serving dinner at Simon the Leper's house (cf. Mark 14:3)? It seems that John is conflating this scene with Luke 10:39-40. None of the other Evangelists mentioned that Lazarus was present at that dinner either.

    John 12:3. Mary pours the perfume on Jesus' feet and wipes them with her hair, just as in Luke 7:38, whereas in Mark 14:3 (and also in Matthew 26:7) the unnamed woman pours the perfume on his head.

    John 12:4-6. Now it is Judas who objects to the waste of the money, whereas in Mark it was just some bystanders and in Matthew some unspecified disciples. Note how John is following Mark's version rather than Matthew's (in the mention of a year's wages). John also tries to mitigate the embarrassing narcissism and unconcern for the poor of Jesus by making it clear that Judas was really interested in the poor either (which still doesn't justify Jesus' behavior).



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