"Psalm 23," John August Swanson. Used by permission from the artist.
Image © by John August Swanson. Artwork held in the Luther Seminary Fine Arts Collection, St. Paul, Minn.
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John 3:1-21 Commentary
by Lindsey Trozzo
If we think of John’s story as a play, by the time we get to John 3 we’ve witnessed a poetic opening monologue from our narrator, a mini-series of scenes depicting Jesus’ first interactions with John the Baptist and the disciples, and two heavy-hitting scenes that establish Jesus’ identity as the Messianic initiator of a new era of God’s work in the world and an authoritative challenger to the status quo.1
The narrator tells us that many saw his signs and trusted in Jesus. Before the lights go down, a final line is delivered (John 2:24-25):
Jesus would not entrust himself to them ... because he knew what was in everyone. (Blackout.)
As the lights come up on the scene in John 3, we are invited to eavesdrop on Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus, a “man of the Pharisees” who has made his way to Jesus through the Jerusalem streets under the cover of night. The imagery of darkness and the transitional element from the previous scene makes us wonder about Nicodemus’ intentions as he approaches Jesus.2
Many scholars have noted the theme of misunderstanding throughout John and especially in this exchange.3 However, others have suggested that Nicodemus’ apparent misunderstanding is a rhetorical ploy meant to challenge and confound Jesus. As Jo-Ann Brant explains, Nicodemus resembles the “dissembling” character in ancient drama. This type of character actively ...
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2018 Summer Readings
2018-19 Readings (Year 1)
2018-19 Worship Resources
The narrative lectionary is a four-year cycle of readings. Read more.
January 28, 2018
This is the podcast for John 3:1-21, the Narrative Lectionary reading for Jan. 28, 2018, featuring Profs. Rolf Jacobson, Craig Koester, and Karoline Lewis. Podcast recorded at Luther Seminary, Saint Paul, Minn.