When the National Gallery reopened last year, they began with a free exhibition about the little known Dutch painter, Nicolaes Maes. Having learnt from the great master of painting, Rembrandt, Maes produced over 1000 artworks, 900 of which were portraits. This exhibition only contained 50 artworks but managed to provide a detailed journey of Maes’ artistic progress, beginning with historical and biblical scenes and ending with depictions of everyday life.
It is not easy to put Maes’ earlier works into chronological order because he tended not to sign or date them. His earliest signed and dated painting is Dismissal of Hagar and Ishmael, which he produced in 1653 during his final year with Rembrandt.
Loosely based on an etching by his master, Maes managed to convey the scene in an original manner. The painting shows a scene from the Book of Genesis. Hagar, Abraham’s concubine, is being dismissed along with her son Ishmael. Abraham’s wife had given Hagar to him so that he could produce an heir. Fourteen years later, Abraham’s wife Sarah miraculously gave birth to a boy, Isaac. Concerned that Ishmael would receive her son’s rightful inheritance, Sarah commanded Abraham to get rid of Hagar and Ishmael. The constrained emotion on both Abraham and Hagar’s faces suggests neither of them was happy with the outcome.
Christ Blessing the Children is considered to be Maes’ earliest surviving painting, although initially wrongly attributed to Rembrandt due to the similarity in style and lack of a signature. It is also of contrasting size to the other artworks Maes produced while in Amsterdam. His paintings were “cabinet size”, but this biblical scene is much larger with a height of 81.1 inches (206cm) and a width of 60.6 inches (154cm).
Maes took inspiration for this painting from the Book of Mark when Jesus says, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” (Mark 10:14-15) Following this, Jesus blessed every child in his presence.
The majority of Maes’ surviving early works are religious. Biblical stories include the Sacrifice of Isaac (Genesis 22), The Death of Absalom (2 Samuel 14), Christ before Pilate (Matthew 27) and The Adoration of the Shepherds (Luke 2). Maes painted the latter after he had left Rembrandt’s studio and used an engraving by Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) as a basis. Maes made a faithful copy of the engraving to the tiniest detail. The proportions are exact and the colour and shading he added to the image highlight the holy family and their visitors.
One of Maes’ religious paintings extends beyond the Bible. Using his imagination and traditional beliefs, Maes experimented with portraiture by painting The Apostle Thomas. The apostle, sometimes known as Doubting Thomas, established seven churches in India between AD 52 and AD 72. Maes imagined what the older man looked like during his mission in India and, at first, the portrait appears to be of a reticent elder. Painted in the manner of Rembrandt, Maes indicated the man’s identity with the subtle inclusion of a set square in his left hand. As well as being one of Jesus’ disciples, Thomas was a builder or carpenter, a profession that used a set square for accurate measurements. Some traditions believe Thomas was martyred by a spear that had a head resembling the set square, which has since become his symbol in works of art.
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This blog post was published with the permission of the author, Hazel Stainer. www.hazelstainer.wordpress.com
As we return to regular worship in church, I would like us to think about what worship really means. Nobody forces us to worship. Worship is freely given. We do not worship because God is some egomaniac but in response to all that God has done, for instance, God’s miracles. God’s first miracle was creating the world, and another was sending Jesus to die for our sins so that we can reconcile with God and enjoy that relationship.
Worship is not just singing songs. As Romans 12:1 says, worship is offering our bodies to God as living sacrifices. We worship because God is the creator, the deliverer and the provider. We worship because we are hard-wired to do so. In today’s society, where God is often not acknowledged, we have the cult of the celebrity, or we worship money or status. Worshipping God is an acknowledgement of something being over and above human life.
We worship to offer God something of ourselves. We pray not to change God’s mind but for our minds to be changed. We pray to align our thoughts with God’s and to self reflect. We try to respond in a way God wants us to respond and ask for things that we know God wants us to ask. So, there is adoration in worship, there is a conversation in worship, and there is the giving of ourselves in worship.
One thing Covid-19 has shown us is that we do not need a building in order to worship. I asked a friend, "what is art?" She told me, if art is made with the intention of being art, then it is art. The same goes for worship. If what you do is set out to be worship, then it is worship. Even if you are cleaning the dishes or walking in the park, if your mind is in a state of worship, then it is worship.
Worship allows us to be aware of God working in our lives. It is having the time and space to allow God to speak to us but also allows ourselves to feel the presence of God. God wishes to make us more like Jesus, the supreme example of love. Freely given, love is an outpouring of yourself, like having a cathartic experience.
Worship is about surrendering everything to God with all our heart, mind and strength. Whilst singing is an emotional response, and singing was very much a part of life in the temple and Judaism, it is not all that worship is, but it can help us understand something of the mystery of God. When you are wrapped up in music, it transcends words, which is why music is important. But worship is not all about singing. As already said, worship is giving 100% of yourself to God as a living sacrifice.
We worship because it is good for us. In a busy world, worship creates space for an hour or so when we are not distracted by email or social media. We allow ourselves to be wrapped in the above and beyond. Worship gives us an attitude of gratitude. Instead of being me me me, worship lets us focus on thankfulness. Worship is good for us because it provides a sense of perspective. By nature, we are designed to worship, and worshipping God allows us to direct it in the right place.
So, that is worship. Worship is our relationship with God, but it is enhanced when worshipping with others. So, in returning to church, we find strength, not only in the testimony of others and discovering how God is working in their lives but by giving us a sense of community. Take, for example, a lump of barbecue coal. Without other coals, a single one will go out. Yet, with other coals that are alight, it creates fire. Nonetheless, whilst corporate worship is important and worshipping in a building is important, it is not vital. Worship is about giving everything you are to a God who has created a universe for us, and for responding to God’s love, feeling God’s presence, and surrendering to that love and being transformed into all that God created us to be.
During his career, English architect, Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, worked on several buildings, including the New Bodleian Library, Battersea Power Station and Liverpool Cathedral. He blended Gothic and modern styles in his architectural designs, resulting in many well-known landmarks. Yet, it is not only these buildings for which we remember him. Scott’s most famous creation was the iconic red telephone box, which still appears on streets in the United Kingdom, Malta, Bermuda and Gibraltar.
In 1901, the diocese of Liverpool announced a competition to design a new cathedral. Two well-known architects were assigned to judge the submissions: George Frederick Bodley (1827-1907), who had connections with the decorative arts manufacturer Morris & Co., and Richard Norman Shaw (1831-1912), the designer of the Piccadilly Hotel in London. At least 103 architects entered the competition, including Temple Moore who also allowed his pupil to submit an entry. Remarkably, Bodley and Shaw selected Scott as the winning architect.
Unsurprisingly, many contested the result, arguing that a 22-year-old with no experience was not a good enough architect for the job. Nonetheless, the diocese accepted Bodley and Shaw’s choice, although asked Bodley to oversee the work. Unfortunately, Bodley had commitments in the United States and was rarely on hand to support the young architect. As a result, the process was slow and frustrating, causing Scott to contemplate handing in his resignation. Before Scott could put this thought into action, Bodley unexpectedly passed away in 1907, leaving Scott in charge of the project.
Without Bodley to hold him back, Scott made rapid progress with the cathedral, but he no longer liked his original idea. After receiving permission from the diocese, Scott redesigned the building, making it simpler and symmetrical, allowing for more interior space. By the end of 1910, the first part of the building – the Lady Chapel – was constructed and consecrated, but the First World War slowed down the rest of the work.
The main body of the cathedral was erected in 1924 and consecrated in the presence of King George V (1865-1936) and Queen Mary (1867-1953). The Second World War caused problems with the construction and, although Scott worked on the project for the rest of his life, he never saw the finished cathedral. The building works finally came to an end in 1978.
Although Scott spent his entire career working on Liverpool Cathedral, he simultaneously produced designs for other buildings. His first completed construction was the Roman Catholic Church of the Annunciation in Bournemouth, followed by other churches in Norfolk, Kent, and the Isle of Man. He also worked on a house in Surrey with his brother, Adrian (1882-1963). During the First World War, while work on Liverpool Cathedral slowed, Scott became a Major in the Royal Marines and oversaw the construction of sea defences on the English coast.
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This blog post was published with the permission of the author, Hazel Stainer. www.hazelstainer.wordpress.com
Credo quia absurdum ("I believe because it is absurd") - Tertullian (c.155-220 AD)
Nobody could plausibly have invented the story of Jesus as the Bible has it. They tortured and crucified the hero. They vilified him for speaking to the wrong people and championing the poor. As a story, this is absurd. You would have to be a fool to believe it. As I write this letter, I am aware April Fool's day is approaching. Who else but a fool would invent such a story as that of Jesus?
April fools jokes are legion. Here are some articles which I ask you to decide, are they true or false?
They are all, of course, false.
According to tradition, on 1st April, we can be pranksters up until noon. The origin of the day is uncertain but may date back to Roman times when, at the start of the year, they celebrated renewal festivals. This allowed servants to control their masters or children to order their parents around. At one point, the Spring Equinox marked the beginning of a new year. Nowadays, this falls towards the end of March and may explain why the April Fools Day holiday developed. Also, when calendars changed to make 1st January the beginning of the year, people made fun of those who continued to celebrate new year in the spring.
Yet, believing in Jesus is far from foolish. Why would twelve of his closest friends, apart from John, die horrible deaths in Jesus’ name? They all sent the message of Christ’s resurrection around the world. If it was not true, why did no one break ranks to save themselves? The fact they did not is the biggest reason to believe.
There are many inconsistencies within the New Testament, but that does not take away from its authenticity. The Gospels were written from varying viewpoints, allowing us to read about a more detailed and complex saviour. The life of Jesus is a true story, meaning we must not forget that Christ came into the world so that all shall not perish but have eternal life.
Jesus is counterrevolutionary, asking us to believe in one God when the Romans and Greeks believed in many. He asks us to love our enemies by demonstrating that love practically. Rather than thinking it foolish to believe in such a man - fully human, fully divine - the jester's hat sits firmly on the non-believers.
P.S. True or false? The Gants Hill URC website has had almost 14,000 visitors since its creation. TRUE!
I have bought the annual Friendship Book for many years. It provides a thought for each day of the year, offering information about the lives of famous people as well as anecdotes about the author’s experiences. The written illustrations are full of thought-provoking ideas and, although it is not a religious book, I find it a source of inspiration for sermons and letters for the church magazine.
The intention is to read one short section a day, but I find the book a real page-turner and read it from cover to cover within a week. Whilst I sense the author is a Christian, The Friendship Book is suitable for anybody. If one day’s snippet does not prove helpful, chances are the following reading will. On more than one occasion, the book stops you in your tracks, demanding attention and careful reflection.
I have at least 15 years worth of The Friendship Book annuals, and I am fascinated about where the writer gets his information. He is remarkably well informed, and the books reveal countless treasures. Writing one Minister’s Letter a month is sufficient pressure for me, whereas the author manages to write a thought for each day every year.
All my copies of The Friendship Book sit on my bookshelf, where I have filed them after extracting any ideas for sermons and magazine articles. I realise this is a waste of a resource, and I should read and reread the books often. Rather than placing it on a shelf, the book could sit on an occasional table where people could pick it up, open any page and be well rewarded.
The Friendship Book has become a friend. I recommend it to anyone who likes to have snippets of information rather than essays.
Specks and Planks: Stories of hope, humility and humanity is a great book. Someone introduced me to the book before Lent to use as a Bible study. Yet, I found reading it to myself far better than having it read to me. Each chapter is only four pages, so if you do not like one of the chapters, you know there will be another one along very shortly that you may like. I am happy to say that I enjoyed every single one. It was a joy from chapter one to chapter thirty-four.
It is the sort of book that has to be savoured and not read quickly, just like superior cheese or fine wine. It benefits from being read intentionally but at a nice, slow pace so that you can pick up all the nuances. Jeff Lucas sprinkles it with humour making it so enjoyable, I did not want it to end. I enjoyed the writing quality and how Lucas made me question my thinking by gently offering alternative viewpoints. He is very Christ-centric and suggests a solution to world peace, which involves the world collaborating on a giant jigsaw. It is Lucas’s sideways looks and creative thinking that makes the book an absolute gem.
There are some powerful stories (for instance, chapter 32), but there are many light-hearted ones that meant I finished the book quite quickly, despite attempting to take my time. Jeff Lucas’s theology is similar to my own. He sees Jesus in much the same way as I, offering continual love and being continually available. Whilst on occasions it may seem that he is hidden, Jesus is always there for you.
Specks and Planks is very up to date. Jeff Lucas wrote it during the outset of Covid-19 and offers comfort as well as intelligent insights into the New Testament. I looked forward to my spare hours when I could sit down and read, and I would happily reread the book. The book is suitable for any Christian who enjoys a cup of tea and a good book in the morning or afternoon. Although there are moments of profound thinking, it is generally a gentle read. To benefit from the text, you need to read it slowly because it gives you lots to think about. You will find yourself making time to read it and relax.
Title: A Pint and a Prayer: Reflections on Daily Life
Author: Nick Fawcett
Published: 1st January 2006
Publisher: Kevin Mayhew Ltd.
Number of Pages: 32
Available from: Amazon
I have long admired Nick Fawcett. I have, in my possession, two of his books called No Ordinary Man (book 1 and 2) and two books entitled A Prayer for All Seasons (book 1 and 2). They are lengthy books, more reference than narrative for me, so I was delighted to receive this little book, A Pint and a Prayer, published in 2006. The 32-page book can be read from cover to cover, which takes approximately 45 minutes. Nick Fawcett, in his introduction, says he wrote it to show faith and life are inextricably linked, and prayer touches people wherever they are. So, through various ordinary events, such as taking the car to a service, a football match, playing golf, he links an observation about daily occurrences with a prayer.
Personally, whilst I enjoyed the book, I did not find anything new. Nevertheless, I like some of Fawcett’s ideas, such as using rather than abusing your gifts. He uses the analogy of a car running better after undergoing a service, to suggest that we should clear away anything that undermines our performance and prevents us from realising our true potential. He advises us to look beyond people's masks and labels and recognise the intrinsic worth of all. We need to understand what we can tackle and what we cannot, and we should appreciate everything that is shaping us.
Upon reflection, you can use the book to take you much deeper. For example, there is a lovely poem about computer games, through which Fawcett explores how he is being shaped, and so reflecting upon that, you can think about the things that are shaping you. What are the influences making you the person you are? Do you need to change anything? Are you happy with the journey? Do you recognise the forces at work shaping you? Do you recognise the power of friends, family, social media, television, and newspapers?
A Pint and a Prayer is a good read. It is quick, and on every page, there is something upon which to reflect. For that reason, I recommend it. This book is especially useful during the season of Lent to help prepare for Easter. It allows you to dwell upon some of the questions prompted and helps you understand your relationship with God. And for that, I am recommending it even more.
There is no right or wrong way to write a book review. For some, writing “I liked this book” is good enough, but many writers prefer in-depth feedback and critique. When Martin set himself then challenge to read and review a book per week during Lent, he asked me for advice. I have written many reviews, and new authors have sent me copies of their books in exchange for honest opinions. So, I thought I would share how I write a book review.
Firstly, write a brief description of the book. What is it about? Is it fiction or non-fiction? To what genre does it belong? Do not give anything away, especially the ending, but it is useful to tell potential readers a little about the narrative to entice them. Also, mention whether it is part of a series or a stand-alone. Is this the author’s first work, or are they a well-established writer?
Ancient Indian knowledge and wisdom have been expressed through storytelling for thousands of years. With this in mind, Limesh Parekh wrote his first business book Cracking the CRM Code in fiction format. CRM, which the author fails to define in the book, stands for Customer Relationship Management and is a useful process for businesses to interact with their customers.
What did you like about the book? Even if you did not enjoy it, you can find something positive to say. Was it well written? Did it contain interesting ideas or characters? What made you keep reading? Mention the emotions you felt, whether the author made you laugh or cry. Could you relate to the subject? Did you learn something new?
Many business books and manuals are nondescript and boring, whereas Limesh Parekh keeps the reader engaged with anecdotes, stories and quotes. Rather than learning how to use CRM, the characters show the process of purchasing and using the software, which is far more enlightening than a step-by-step guide.
For some, the hardest part of writing a review is mentioning the things they did not like. It is so easy to tell someone you liked their work, rather than criticise them. Yet, even if it is unpleasant to hear, authors appreciate honesty and take on advice and comments in their future writings. If you found the book uninteresting, say so. Perhaps you were not the intended audience. Was the narrative easy to follow? Did you dislike any of the characters or ideas? Were there too many mistakes? (Be aware, typing errors are sometimes the fault of the editor and publisher, rather than the author.)
English is presumably not the author's first language, hence the sentences do not always flow, and the punctuation is far from perfect. At times, it is difficult to work out which character is speaking, making it a little confusing to follow.
Why should other people read this book? Did your reading experience benefit you in any way? Was it entertaining or educational, or was it a waste of your time? To whom would you recommend the book? Was it written for people with particular interests? Is it suitable for older or younger readers? Did it remind you of any other books you had read?
Cracking the CRM Code is written for business-minded people who understand the jargon and acronyms, many of which are unexplained. As a layperson, some of the information went over my head, but the fiction format helped hold my interest.
The final sentence of your review should indicate your overall impression of the book. You may have mentioned both positive and negative points, but which opinion comes out strongest? Some people find it easier to end their review with a rating out of 5 or 10 to indicate how much they enjoyed the book.
Cracking the CRM Code has the potential to be a big hit with small business owners and business consultants. (3/5 Stars)
Written by Hazel
Today’s reading is John 2:13-22.
13 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15 So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” 17 His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
18 The Jews then responded to him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?”
19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”
20 They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” 21 But the temple he had spoken of was his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.
The site of the temple was very historic. It was built on Mount Moriah where Abraham very nearly sacrificed Isaac. This is the same place where Solomon built his temple. The temple in the reading was one of Herod the Great’s major building projects. Construction started around 20 BC and, as John tells us, it took 46 years to build, although we know that it was not fully completed until 63 AD. The temple was comprised of the sanctuary, which housed the main part of the temple and the Holy of Holies, which contained the Ark of the Covenant. Within the precinct, the open-air Court of the Gentiles surrounded the sanctuary. It was here that Caiaphas, the Jewish High Priest, had allowed traders to set up their stalls to help with the running of the temple.
During Passover, 300-400 thousand pilgrims came to the temple to exchange their Roman Denarii or Greek drachma into coins acceptable to pay the Temple Tax of half a shekel. Roman coins featured the image of the emperor, thus proclaiming his divinity. Therefore, these coins were blasphemous and not allowed in the temple. Traders of livestock or doves were needed to sell the appropriate sacrifices. Make no mistake, the traders were doing what Jewish law demanded. Yet, the temple itself was meant to be a place of prayer.
Zechariah, writing to the Jews returning from exile, portrayed a vision that, "Every pot in Jerusalem and Judah will be holy to the Lord Almighty, and all who come to sacrifice will take some of the pots and cook in them. And on that day there will no longer be a merchant in the house of the Lord Almighty." (Zechariah 14:21) Similarly, Isaiah 56:7, written around 681 BC, reminds us, “For my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” And, Jeremiah 7:11, who wrote to the people of Judah during his ministry between 627-586 BC, protests and asks, “Has this house which bears my name become a den of robbers to you?”
Caiaphas deliberately allowed the traders into the temple precincts, whereas they usually traded outside the temple in the Kidron Vallery. Jesus, in John’s account, at the beginning of his ministry, goes to the temple and is incensed, not with the actual trading, but the fact it was happening inside the temple. So, he drove them out with a self-made whip.
It is interesting to compare the report of John with the Synoptic Gospels. All three of the Synoptics record this episode at the beginning of Holy Week, i.e. the end of Jesus’ ministry. All three suggest this was the tipping point, the reason Jesus had to die. He had control of the crowd, and he was starting to meddle in the temple economy. It seems a logical place to write this story, but John has it right at the beginning, straight after the first miracle of turning water into wine. In John’s Gospel, there are three Passovers annotated. The period of John’s Gospel is at least two years, whereas the Synoptics have one year.
This story presents Jesus as a radical person. Jesus is angry and showing his humanity. John reminds us that Jesus is fully human as well as fully divine. We also recall that Jesus wept at Lazarus’ death, again showing his humanity and compassion.
The question I ask, therefore, is when is it right to be angry? The history of this passage has influenced different responses. Origen, in the second century AD, said that the account was not historical but metaphysical. The temple is the soul of a person freed from earthly things to serve God. On the other hand, John Chrysostom, in AD 391, defended the historical account. People have used it to justify the use of violence by Christians, for example, Augustin of Hippo. In 1075, Gregory VII used it to justify his actions against the Simonic clergy. Bernard of Clairvaux, who lived 1090-1153, used it to defend the Second Crusade; and John Calvin used it to support his action against the polymath Michael Servetus when he was burnt at the stake for the heresy of rejecting the concept of the Trinity.
So, where do we stand on our thinking of righteous violence? It seems to me that the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17) show a great deal about God as well as God’s people. The Israelites had just escaped from slavery in Egypt, where it was common to worship many gods. On Mount Sinai, God offers to Moses the Ten Commandments by which his people must live, the first being the very radical and scary commandment of having no other god but God. In Jesus’ time, the Romans and Greeks worshipped loads of gods, e.g. the twelve Olympians, so to demand they only worship one rather than have the protection of several was a scary, totally revolutionary concept.
God revealed that the creation of the world happened in seven days: six to create and the seventh to rest. This idea of working for six days and resting for one was for our good. God cares about God's people. In a world dominated by violence, when human life went unvalued, God gave the commandments of not killing, stealing or committing adultery. God was a God of community.
So, would a God who has laid these groundworks be happy with righteous anger? I think yes, but it cannot go beyond the confines of killing or being violent toward one another. There are Bible passages to help us when we feel or witness anger.
Proverbs 12:16 tells us that a prudent man overlooks an insult
Romans 12:17-21 says " Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath ... Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."
Psalm 4:4: In your anger do not sin… trust in the Lord.
James 1:19: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.
God wants us to love God and to love our neighbour. In doing so, we have to ensure that we do not uphold the status quo if people are being oppressed. Jesus cleared the temple, so we have to clear and declutter all the things that stop us from having a relationship with God. We have to cleanse ourselves and declutter ourselves from all the habits that lead us to do things that are wrong and lead us away from God’s presence. The temple was an awe-inspiring building. It spoke of the glory of God, but it is just a building. After its completion in AD 63, it was demolished in AD 70 when the Romans, after a 4-year siege, destroyed Jerusalem.
Our lives have to be built upon the foundation of a righteous God who loves justice and mercy. So, as well as decluttering ourselves to remove the obstacles preventing us from coming to God, perhaps we should look at the various laws we follow. There are many poor people in the world, but what are the systems that keep them poor, and how can we challenge those systems so that the kind of world that God wants for God's people can be fully realised? That is our challenge for Lent, that we not only look at ourselves, but we also look at society and think how it could be improved so that God's love, mercy and justice can be offered to all.
This sermon was first preached on 7th March 2021 at Western Road URC via Zoom
The Gospel of John has a quality all of its own. It is a terrific gospel written, tradition tells us, by John, son of Zebedee, a "son of Thunder", the brother of James, around AD 85-90. This places the gospel after the destruction of the temple in AD 70, but before John's exile to the island of Patmos. Its scope is cosmic. It spans the time between the beginning of the world up until it was written and the promise of eternity. In a language that is poetic and beautiful, the Gospel of John is symbolised by an eagle because it is a gospel that soars high into the sky, grasping concepts of universal importance. Yet, John also pinpoints minutiae.
The Gospel of John is unique in that it goes against the Synoptics. It covers at least three Passovers, whereas the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke only mention one. It contains the seven "I am" statements of Jesus: Bread of Life; the Light of the World; the Gate, the Good Shepherd; the Resurrection and the Life; the Way, the Truth and the Life; and the True Vine. John also mentions seven miracles or "signs": turning water into wine, healing the nobleman's son, curing the lame man, feeding 5000 people, walking on water, giving sight to the blind, and raising Lazarus from the dead.
There are no parables in the Gospel of John because John wants to focus on the divinity of Jesus as the son of God, but also his humility and compassion. He was fully human and fully divine. John wrote after the other Gospels, so he not only provided a first-hand account because he was there at the time of Jesus, John also used material from the other gospels together with other sources. John writes after the fall of the Temple, which in effect was God’s house, so he writes to a people who were persecuted and rejected and whose faith was, in some respect, in tatters because of the destruction and the realisation that God was not there. He was giving them hope for the future.
It is a good read. It is fast-paced and contains some great characters, for example, Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman at the well, the lame man by the pool, the adulterous woman, the blind man, and Lazarus, who rose from the dead. In some detail, John includes the journey of Jesus through Jerusalem, riding on a donkey to his death. He also records the resurrection and Jesus' activities after he rose.
John finishes with this verse: "Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written." I commend this book because it is awe-inspiring and, if true, then why would you not believe that Jesus Christ came because "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)
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Rev'd Martin Wheadon