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The Catholic Study Bible A special version of the New American Bible, with a wealth of background information useful to Catholics.

The Book of Glory ( 13, 1–20, 31 )

We already know that Jesus offers his life out of love; that Jesus' crucifixion is the moment of his exaltation and return to the Father; that this death is the source of eternal life for all who believe and the manifestation of a new relationship between believers and God. The truth about Jesus' death lies in the revelation that occurs on the cross, not in the plots of Jesus' enemies.

The Supper Discourses ( 13, 1–17, 26 )

Jesus prepares the disciples for the events to come, as well as their future life as a community of believers. The foot‐washing not only reflects the service Jesus is about to perform in his death, it also sets a pattern for relationships among disciples. They are going to be the ones sent to represent Jesus and must follow the model given by their teacher ( 13, 1–20 ). John has never let us forget that one of Jesus' disciples, Judas, does not really belong to Jesus. He is the agent of God's purpose even though he is in the grip of Satan ( 6, 70f; 12, 4–6; 13, 2.11.21–30; 17, 12 ). Throughout this section, the evangelist reminds us that the disciples understood the significance of what Jesus said and did only after he had been glorified ( 13, 7; 14, 29; 16, 4.25 ). As Judas is about to depart, a new character, the Beloved Disciple, appears in the narrative. He is closer to Jesus than any other disciple ( 13, 23 ) and will show special insight into events of the Passion and Resurrection. The Johannine community revered the Beloved Disciple as the source of its tradition.

The discourses in 13, 31–17, 26 may have been composed as independent units. John 13, 36–14, 31 treats the disciples' grief, Jesus' departure and return, and the coming of the Advocate. Jesus also returns to the disciples as an indwelling presence along with the Father. John 16, 4b–33 also deals with the disciples' grief, Jesus' departure and return, and the coming of the Advocate. It lacks the development of the return theme, however, as the mutual indwelling of Father and Son. John 15, 1–16, 4a encourages the disciples to remain united with Jesus the true vine and to love one another. This unity may be severely tested, since the disciples must also expect hatred, persecution, and even death from the world ( 15, 18–16, 4a ). Finally, John 17, 1–26 contains a prayer in which Jesus speaks to the Father about the disciples he is leaving behind. They are the evidence that Jesus has completed the task he was sent into the world to accomplish ( 17, 6–11a ). Left in the world, the disciples are no more “of the world” than Jesus, but without Jesus they require God's protection ( 17, 13–19 ). As the Father sent him, so Jesus is sending the disciples into the world. The prayer looks beyond the immediate community of disciples to the community that will be the result of their preaching. Jesus expresses a vision of Christian community that runs throughout these discourses. The community is to express the love and unity, which has its source in the love and unity that exists between the Father and the Son ( 17, 20–26 ).

Mutual love and unity grounded in their vision of God are the focal points of the discourses. You may have noticed that the only explicit commandment given in the Fourth Gospel is the command to love one another ( 13, 34f ). This love expresses the love of God ( 14, 21.23f; 17, 23 ) and of Jesus for “his own,” which is about to be demonstrated on the cross ( 13, 1; 14, 21b; 15, 11–15 ). These discourses also suggest that mutual love and unity will be severely tested. The disciples do not yet fully understand what Jesus has revealed to them. The Advocate, who comes from God, must continue the process of bringing understanding to the community ( 14, 25f; 16, 13–15 ). Hatred and persecution from outsiders may also take their toll, as the synagogue exclusion apparently did. The Advocate will help the disciples who have to stand trial ( 15, 26f ) and convict the world of its unrighteousness and sin ( 16, 8–11 ). The community may not remain in the “name of God,” which Jesus has revealed ( 17, 11 ). If you read 1 John, you will see that the Johannine churches suffered serious internal divisions. These discourses remind us that Jesus' revelation of God's love is the foundation of Christian unity. Christians who follow this ideal face a hostile world in which their faithfulness to it survives only if they remember its source and persist in praying for the guidance of the Spirit necessary to achieve mutual love and unity.

Jesus' Arrest, Crucifixion, and Resurrection ( 18, 1–20, 31 )

Throughout his Passion, Jesus remains in complete control of his destiny. Jesus lays down his life; others do not take it from him. When Jesus identifies himself with the name I am, used of God in the Old Testament, all those who came to seize him fall to the ground ( 18, 1–14 ). Jesus confronts his accusers with the evidence of his public teaching. He demands that they bring evidence against him, which they are unable to do ( 18, 19–24 ). Jewish officials try to hand Jesus over to Pilate without a formal charge ( 18, 28–32 ). Consequently, the inquiry that Pilate conducts picks up the theme of kingship. John's use of double meanings throughout the Gospel has prepared us for the dialogue that follows. Jesus both denies any earthly kingship and assents to the title “King of the Jews” ( 18, 33–38 ). Nor are we surprised to find the soldiers' mockery turn Jesus into a king symbolically and then to see Pilate present the “king” to the Jewish people ( 19, 1–5 ).

When Jesus is presented as “king,” the trial scene breaks out into vicious hostility. Pilate knows Jesus is innocent but can only speak to the Jewish officials and to Jesus with bitterness and sarcasm. He knows nothing about truth ( 18, 38 ). Jesus does not accept Pilate's claim to authority ( 19, 10f ). Pilate is the one who fears the political power of others. He will give in to threats of being denounced to Caesar and execute an innocent man. At the same time, he retaliates against those responsible by insisting that the charge read “King of the Jews.” The chief priests demonstrate how far away from God they are by proclaiming that they have no king but Caesar ( 19, 12–22 ). The violent cruelty and bitterness of this scene show us what brute force and political power are like when those in power have no awareness of their responsibilities toward God. Pilate is interested only in asserting Roman control over the conquered Jews. The death of an obscure Galilean is of no concern to him. When we meditate on this passage, we should recognize that we have a responsibility to protest such abuses of power in our own world. We cannot stand by and permit innocent people to be brutalized and even killed to support tyrannical power.

Details in the crucifixion scene, which fulfill passages of Scripture, demonstrate that everything is happening according to God's plan ( 19, 23f.28.33–37 ). Jesus provides for those faithful to him by entrusting his mother to the Beloved Disciple as “son” ( 19, 25–27 ). Unlike the others crucified, whose legs were broken to hasten their death ( 19, 31–33 ), Jesus departs to the Father as soon as his mission is accomplished ( 19, 30 ).

Jesus' crucifixion and death are witnessed by friends and enemies alike. When Pilate releases the body to Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus for burial, we know that Jesus has really died and been buried according to accepted customs ( 19, 38–42 ). Consequently, Mary's reaction to discovering the tomb open is to conclude that “they” (possibly hostile authorities) have taken the body ( 20, 1f ). Though the Beloved Disciple arrives at the tomb first and is said to believe, all he and Peter discover is the grave wrappings in one pile and the face cloth rolled up in another place. The evangelist comments that they could not understand what had happened because they did not know the Scripture about Jesus' Resurrection ( 20, 9 ).

Mary of Magdala's encounter with the Risen Lord combines the old tradition of an angelic appearance to the women at the tomb, announcing the Resurrection, with the tradition that Jesus himself appeared to the women in the vicinity of the tomb ( 20, 11–18; see Mt 28, 1–10 ). As in the other tomb stories, Mary receives a message for the disciples. She is not to cling to the Lord but to announce Jesus' return to God. John's account puts the occurrence of all the events—Resurrection, ascent to the Father, and bestowing the Spirit on the disciples—on Easter. When Jesus appears among the disciples, the marks on his body prove that the Risen Lord is the one who had been crucified. The disciples are now officially sent to the world as Jesus had been, and they receive the promised gift of the Spirit, a sign that Jesus' mission has been completed ( 7, 39; 3, 34 ). Forgiveness of sins as an activity of the Spirit within the Christian community ( 21, 23 ) appears only here in John's Gospel, but it is familiar from the Synoptics (see Lk 24, 47; Mt 18, 18 ). First John presupposes some form of “forgiveness” available within the community (see 1 Jn 1, 8–2, 2; 5, 16f ).

John creates a second episode from the tradition of Thomas's doubt. The demand for physical evidence is a sign of unbelief. Christians who have not seen and yet believed are the ones who are really blessed ( 20, 28f ).

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