Socially Life Giving and Healing, Part 2

Socially Life Giving and Healing, Part 2 May 8, 2024


As we continue to consider our reading this week from the gospel of John, again, Jesus and his life work are subtly different in the Johannine community’s version of the Jesus story. In Mark, Matthew, and Luke, Jesus’ life work is liberating those on the edges and undersides of his society, healing those who are oppressed by sickness and disease, and calling those responsible for the economic exploitation of the poor to abandon their complicity and participation in the status quo and join his movement to make the world a compassionate, safe, and just home for everyone. This is a movement that the synoptic Jesus in those gospels refers to as “the kingdom.” 

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(Read this series from its beginning here.)

In the gospel of John “the kingdom” is wholly absent. This gospel pays lip service to the synoptics’ “kingdom” twice. But in both cases, it spiritualizes the kingdom as transcending Jesus followers’ concrete and material experiences or describes it as concerned primarily with matters of “another place.” John’s kingdom has nothing to do with threatening the privileged and exploitive power structures of this world or injustice. 

“Jesus answered, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.’” (John 3:5, emphasis mine.)

Jesus said [to Pilate], “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.” (John 18:36, emphasis mine.)

In John, Jesus’ purpose is to open death, transform it into a portal, and show us how we can follow him through death and resurrection into the higher, post mortem bliss of being rejoined and reunited with “the Father.” We see John’s gospels influence today in expressions of Christianity that are focused on getting to heaven in an afterlife while being oblivious to or unobservant of suffering and harm people around them experience on earth in the here and now. This focus looks nothing like the Jesus of the synoptic gospels.

There are a couple things in our reading this week that I think the Johannine gospel gets right. Let’s take a look at those, next.

(Read Part 3)


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About Herb Montgomery
Herb Montgomery, director of Renewed Heart Ministries, is an author and adult religious re-educator helping Christians explore the intersection of their faith with love, compassion, action, and societal justice. You can read more about the author here.

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