Lesson 13 – The Gospel of John and the Letters of the Apostles

Presentation of the Gospel of John and his letters

John’s Gospel is not, like the synoptic ones, a biography of Jesus. What interests the evangelist here, is not the human genealogy of the awaited Messiah, but another reality concerning His personality, much more profound and moving: His divine origin. Also, he commences his work with a masterly introduction to reveal us what he had discovered himself, namely the divine genealogy of Jesus, saying: “In the beginning was the Word: the Word was with God and the Word was God (John 1,1) … The Word became flesh, he lived among us” (John 1,14).

John is thus not a historian of the earthly life of Christ, like the other evangelists are, but a theologian who reveals His divine nature. The Synoptic Gospels teach us that Jesus is the awaited Messiah. John also attests this truth, but he goes much farther -or rather much higher- to teach us what the others did not reveal, that this Messiah is God Incarnate, the Creator who took human form to be personally present among men on earth and in a tangible way. It is deeply moving, striking, when think of it. It is above all, true.

John is the only evangelist to communicate to us this precise information, and it is because of this that he was called “the theologian”. He is represented by an eagle because he flew high in his thoughts.

It is only after having reached 90 years that John decided to write his Gospel. He was then, the only survivor among the Apostles. He had not thought it opportune to write before this because other Gospels and multiple letters of the Apostles were present to inform the believers about Jesus. What spurred him to write? It is important for you to know.

We have seen in the previous lesson that the anti-Christ Jews had infiltrated into the nascent pro-Christ community to destroy it from the inside. They disturbed the believers not only by obliging them to practice Jewish worship, but by claiming that Jesus was not the Messiah, but John the Baptist. Moreover, they attacked Christians because they believed in the divinity of the Messiah. The distressed faithful turned then to John, looking for the light they needed. Knowing that he was Jesus’ beloved disciple, they knew that they could have confidence in his words.

John thus commenced his Gospel in clarifying them on these two controversial points:

  1. Jesus is the Messiah
    John the Baptist is not the Messiah (the Light): “He came as a witness, as a witness to speak for the Light, so that everyone might believe (in the Messiah) through him. He was not the Light, only a witness to speak for the Light. The Word was the true Light…” (John 1,6-9)
    Jesus, the Word of God, is thus also the Messiah.
  2. Jesus is God incarnate
    Jesus is the Word, the Word is God (John 1,1) and the Word was made flesh, He took on a human body to live among men (John 1,14). Jesus is thus truly God incarnate.

John was once the disciple of John the Baptist, and Apostle of Jesus (like Andrew: John 1,35-40), John is well-placed to calm down the faithful who recurred to him. He confounds the errors spread by the false prophets whom he denounces in his letters (1 John 4,1-6 / 2 John 1,7) and in the Book of Revelation (where he qualifies them as false Jews and the Synagogue of Satan: Revelation 2,9 and 3,9). The “Nicolaitans”: Revelation 2,6 were a sect formed of so-called converted Jews who denied the divinity of Jesus.

A good method to study John’s Gospel is to read it while paying attention to discover in it:

  1. The verses showing that the Messiah is Jesus, not John the Baptist;
  2. The insinuations -often subtle- in the discussions of Jesus, where He reveals Himself as God incarnate.

You will read this marvelous book after the clarifications given on each of these two points to help you in your research.

Jesus is the Messiah

In the beginning, many Jews believed that John the Baptist was the Messiah. The Gospels inform us that he insisted to tell them: “I baptize you in water for repentance, but the one who follows me (Jesus) is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to carry his sandals; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Matthew 3,11) Nevertheless, Luke lets us know that, much later, there were still some Jews in Ephesus who sufficed with the baptism of John the Baptist (Acts 19,1-7). And it was precisely at Ephesus that John was too. The Jews of this city were the most violent “anti-Christs”: “… some Jews from Asia caught sight of him in the Temple and stirred up the crowd and seized him…” (Acts 21,27)

In his Gospel, John insisted and repeated often the witnessing of John the Baptist: “A man came, sent by God. His name was John. He came as a witness, as a witness to speak for the Light… He was not the Light, only a witness to speak for the Light. The Word was the true Light (John 1,6-9) … John appears as his witness. He proclaims: ‘This is the One of whom I said: He who comes after me ranks before me because he existed before me’ (John 1,15) … This is how John appeared as a witness… ‘I am not the Christ’… (John 1,19-27) … The next day, seeing Jesus coming toward him, John said, ‘Look, there is the Lamb of God… This is the One I spoke of when I said: A man is coming after me who ranks before me… Yes, I have seen and I am the witness that He is the Chosen One (the Christ) of God.” (John 1,29-36) “You yourselves can bear me out: I said: I myself am not the Christ; I am the one who has been sent in front of him…” (John 3,26-36)

So then, from the onset, John comforts his disciples: Jesus is verily the Christ-God. He ends his Gospel in confirming them in this belief, saying that he reminded them of all these signs operated by Jesus “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing this you may have life through his name.” (John 20,30-31)

The Divinity of Jesus

John begins his Gospel with a keyword which has a great impact in the Jewish mentality: “In the beginning”, in Hebrew “Bereshit” (“Be”: in, “reshit”: beginning). The importance of this word is due to the fact that it inaugurates the Old Testament, the Torah. Indeed, the Book of Genesis begins thus: “In the beginning (Bereshit) God created heaven and earth”.

It is intentionally that John, pushed by the Breath of God, employs this word which strikes the Jewish heart and shocks them, so to open them to the books of the New Testament. It is in the same Spirit that John commences his first letter: “What existed since the beginning…”

In response to the faithful who came to solicit him, John wanted to write a new Genesis, a new “Bereshit”: “In the beginning was the Word… Through Him all things came to be, not one thing had its being but through him. All that came to be had life in him and that life that was the Light of men… He (John the Baptist) was not the Light… The Word was the true Light…” (John 1,1-9)

With these courageous words, John explains in depth what Genesis says of God, the Creator of heaven, of the earth and the light. This Creator is no other than the Word: “Through Him all things came to be” (John 1,3), because “He was with God in the beginning” (John 1,2) and He Himself “was God” (John 1,1). “And the Word was made flesh (in Jesus)” (John 1,14). Those who had recourse to John could not hope for a better answer. You understand why John was called “the Theologian”.

All throughout his Gospel, John employed himself to faithfully report Jesus’ words on which he relied on to say that “In the beginning was the Word: the Word was with God and the Word was God.” Did he not hear Him say to the Jews: “Before Abraham ever was, I Am”? (John 8,58) Did he not also hear the Baptist say in front of him, his disciple: “A man is coming after me who ranks before me because he existed before me“? (John 1,30) Now John knew that Abraham preceded Jesus by 2000 years and that John the Baptist preceded Jesus by six months. He could not be silent in his Gospel on the logical conclusions he had drawn from what he had heard. He gives us his testimony with love and precision, so that those who believe in it are saved.

The belief in the divinity of Jesus already existed before John’s Gospel. In his letters, Paul alludes to it: “His state was divine, yet he did not cling to his equality with God“, he says of Jesus (Philippians 2,6). Also: “You must live your whole life according to the Christ… In His body lives the fullness of divinity” (Colossians 2,6-9). Paul’s letters date approximately 40 years before John’s Gospel.

Since the Christians already believed in the divine incarnation, in its “fullness”, in the Person of Jesus, why did John write to convince his disciples of what they had already known? It is, as I said, because they were troubled by disrupters who aimed in sowing doubt and dissension among the Christian ranks. It is these disrupters, issuing from the Jewish masses who denied Jesus, which are qualified as “antichrists” by John: “You were told that the Antichrist must come, and now several antichrists have already appeared… Those rivals of Christ came out of our own number (the Jews), but they had never really belonged… The man who denies that Jesus is the Christ­—he is the liar, he is the Antichrist!”, he says regarding them (1 John 2,18-22). Paul also alludes to them in writing: “Rebellion is at its work already”, against the first faithful Jews to Jesus (2 Thessalonians 2,7).

The two Jewish camps

Speaking of antichrists, I take the opportunity to speak of the 2 categories of Jews that resulted from the Advent of Jesus: those who were pro-Christ, and the others who ranked against Him, the antichrists.

Jesus, the spiritual Messiah, who was not a nationalist Jew, split Hebraic society into two camps: “These words caused disagreement among the Jews. Many said, ‘He is possessed, he is raving; why bother to listen to him?’ Other said, ‘These are not the words of a man possessed by a devil…” (John 10,19-21)

Likewise, Paul “stirs up trouble among Jews the world over” (Acts 24,5), separating “the darnel from the wheat”, believers from unbelievers. It is in this sense that Jesus had said: “It is not peace I have come to bring, but a sword. For I have come to set a man (who does not believe in me) against his father (who believes in me) …” (Matthew 10,34-35) The unbelieving Jews reproached Jesus for having said this and accused Him of breaking the union of the people and the family…

The believers camp became convinced -from the prophecies- that the Messiah was to go through death, so that the monotheist message passes from the Jews -who had made it hermetic- to the Pagans (Acts 17,1-4), and that “both Jews and Greek (Pagans who were polytheists) … held the name of the Lord Jesus in great honor.” (Acts 19,17) All these thus believed in Jesus, in spite of the resistance of the Israeli Jews, who did not see in Him the nationalist Christ that they illusorily imagined. So then, “thousands of Jews have now become believers”, Christians (Acts 21,20).

On the other hand, the fundamentalist Jews formed an exclusively fanatic Jewish camp, a violently nationalist “ghetto”. Only aspiring to the “restoration” of the kingdom of David in Palestine, this camp opposed the first without pity. This opposition was so violent that it led to the persecution of the disciples of Jesus, who at their reunions “closed the doors in the rooms for fear of the Jews”, non-believers (John 20,19).

The scission was thus total between the two camps, and the words of Jesus were confirmed to the exact: “It is not peace I have come to bring, but a sword”. Indeed, it is by “the sword” that a good number of Apostles perished, stoned like Stephen (Acts 7,59), or literally “by the sword” like “James, the brother of John” (Acts 12,2).

To God, which of these two camps represent the true face of Judaism? Is it the fundamentalists who remained attached to the nationalist ideal? Or the Jewish disciples of Jesus, transformed into “universalists” after their liberation from the prejudices imposed by the narrow fanatic vision of a Judaism, misunderstood?

Jesus responds to this question when He says: “Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets (ie the Books of the Old Testament). I have come not to abolish but to complete them… if your virtue goes no deeper than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 5,17-20)

Jesus is thus the perfection of Judaism and the real Jew is the one who becomes his disciple: “If you wish to be perfect… then come, follow me”, Jesus says to the rich young man who practiced scrupulously, to the letter, the precepts of the Mosaic Law (Matthew 19,21). Having understood that, Paul, who was a practicing Pharisee, declares to the Jews: “Merely by belonging to Christ you are the posterity of Abraham, the heirs he was promised.” (Galatians 3,29)

Thus, according to the Gospel, the true Jew is the one who becomes a disciple of Jesus. Those who deny Him are not true Jews, but “false Jews”, “false brothers”, these “troublemakers” whom Paul speaks of, “among you who want to change the Good News of Christ” (Galatians 1,7). They are these false Jews whom John denounces as “antichrists” and “deceivers” (1 John 2,18-22 / 1 John 4,2-3 / 2 John 1,7), “refusing to admit that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh.” (2 John 1,7) “If anyone comes to you bringing a different doctrine”, John continues, “you must not receive him in your house or even give him a greeting. To greet him would make you a partner in his wicked work.” (2 John 1,10) The Book of Revelation warns us against their reappearance at the end of times and qualifies them as “false Jews”, “who falsely claim to be Jews”, even belonging to the “Synagogue of Satan” (Revelation 2,9 / 3,9). Jesus had accused their predecessors as having “the devil as their father”, not God (John 8,44). These false modern Jews are the Israeli nationalists.

The teachings of John’s Gospel

What interests John is not so much the works of Jesus, but his teachings. He communicates them to us in making us part of the various discussions his Master had with different people, letting us understand by ourselves the lights that Jesus wants to give to mankind.

John thus did not draw up a list of doctrines, but calls upon the good sense of those who know how to read between the lines, and bring out the teachings of Christ from His own words in his different discussions or controversies.

Jesus often takes advantage of any event, sometimes seemingly banal (eg his dialogue with the Samaritan woman: John 4), to reveal a truth. Sometimes, he even creates an occasion to launch a useful discussion. Thus, his miracles were for an indirect and deeper purpose, to spark off discussions during which, he exposes his points of view -on the Torah for example- to rectify the deviation which the Hebraic community had sunk into.

Indeed, Jesus worked miracles on Saturdays to say that one should not reduce their-self to total immobility, as the Jews thought. He thus healed a paralytic, on a Saturday, to the great scandal of the Jews and seized the opportunity to reply to them: “‘My Father goes on working, and so do I.’ But that only made the Jews even more intent on killing him, because, not content with breaking the Sabbath, he spoke of God as his own Father, and so made himself God’s equal.” (John 5,17-18)

What John wanted to give us above all, is this word of Jesus: “My teaching is not from myself: it comes from the One who sent me” (John 7,16). This doctrine of Jesus was transmitted to us by John through the following discussions which Jesus had:

Building of the true Temple (John 2,13-22)

Controversy with the Jews in the Temple to speak of its destruction and the building of the true Temple, the “Temple that was his body”, ie his Person (see Revelation 21,22).

Dialogue with Nicodemus (John 3,1-21)

Jesus reveals therein the necessity to “be born again in spirit“, to decondition oneself and be freed from prejudice in order to be able to see the truth and to objectively choose it after having broken our bodily chains, because “what is born of the flesh (remains) is flesh, what is born of the Spirit is spirit”, and lives eternally.

Dialogue with the Samaritan woman (John 4,1-42)

Jesus provokes a dialogue with a Samaritan woman for three reasons:

  1. To break the hatred between Jews and Samaritans, a hatred erected by ostracism: “Jews, in fact, do not associate with Samaritans”, John reports (John 4,9). The parable of the good Samaritan shocked the Jews (Luke 10,29-37). This amicable approach of Jesus, a Jew, thus astonished the Samaritan woman: “What? You are a Jew and you ask me, a Samaritan, for a drink?” (John 4,9) Jesus takes an antiracist step.
  2. To break the social prejudices of the time, especially in the mentality of His disciples who were astonished to see Him speaking to a woman (John 4,27), who, moreover, was a Samaritan (John 4,9).
  3. The main reason is to reveal to the Samaritans that He is the Messiah (John 4,25-26 / 4,41-42).

Remark that the Samaritans -like innocent and docile children- believed in Jesus, not because they had seen Him doing miracles, but simply from what they “had heard” of the Samaritan woman (John 4,39-42). On the contrary, the Jews were reticent. Jesus Himself had declared, on his return to Galilee two days later: “… there is no respect for a prophet in his own country” (John 4,44). In Cana, He also says, not without bitterness: “So you will not believe unless you see signs and portents!” (John 4,48) … as the Samaritans believed in Him without seeing miracles.

The Spiritual Resurrection (John 5,1-47)

It is the resurrection of the soul by welcoming the Truth proclaimed by Jesus. It is called the “first resurrection” (Revelation 20,5-6). Healing a paralytic, Jesus takes advantage to reveal his divine filiation, his “equality with God” and “God Himself”, as the scandalized Jews say (John 5,17-18 / 10,33). On this occasion, Jesus also announces that “the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and all who hear it will live.” (John 5,25) It means that the Pagans, considered as dead by the Jews, will come to spiritual life thanks to their faith in Jesus. The prophet Baruch says to the Jews exiled amongst the Babylonians, considered as “dead” who “go to Sheol”: “Why, Israel, why are you in the country of your enemies, growing older and older in an alien land, sharing defilement with the dead (the Babylonians), reckoned with those who go to Sheol?” (Baruch 3,10-11)

This return of the soul to life is a spiritual resurrection, that of the soul in the living body, from down here on earth. Jesus says indeed: “The hour will come -in fact it is here already- when the dead (sinners) will hear the voice of the Son of God, and all who hear it (the repentant) will live.” (John 5,25) The Revelation calls it “the first resurrection” (Revelation 20,5-6).

It is therefore not about the “second resurrection”, which will take place at the end of the world. Jesus explains it: “For the hour is coming… those who did good will rise again to Life; and those who did evil, to condemnation.” (ie eternal misery: John 5,28-29) This definitive death of the soul is called the “second death” by Revelation 20,6 (the first being physical death, and the second the death of the soul).

Notice the perseverance of the man healed of his infirmity: “for thirty-eight years” he presented himself to be healed, but “someone else gets there before him.” Jesus heals him because He “knew he had been in this condition for a long time” without loosing hope of being healed.

The “Bread” of Eternal Life (John 6,1-67)

Jesus multiplies bread to speak of another “Bread” which gives Life to the soul, Eternal Life, as he spoke of the “Water” of Eternal Life to the Samaritan, starting from the water of Jacob’s well (John 4,13-14).

But before operating the miracle, as “he Himself knew exactly what He was going to do”, wanted “to test Philip”, as well as the other Apostles. He thus says to Philip: “Where can we buy some bread for these people to eat?” Notice that He said that “to test Philip” (John 6,5-6). Because Philip was one of the Apostles present at Cana when Jesus multiplied the wine (John 1,43 and 2,1-3). He should thus have known that Jesus could feed these thousands of people with no problem. And yet, neither Philip, nor Andrew, also present at Cana, understood what the Messiah wanted and could do (John 6,8). They should have responded to Him: “But Lord, you can do anything! You have only to say a word, as at Cana, and there will be bread for all!”

We should assimilate the two miracles: that of the wine and that of the bread. These two products through which Jesus gives Himself to us in his spiritual Supper. I have not yet explained the miracle of Cana (John 2,1-11) to speak of it now.

Compare the attitude of the faith of Mary, the Blessed Virgin, at Cana, with that of the Apostles here. At Cana, it is She who takes the initiative to ask Jesus to multiply the wine. His Apostles -Philip and Andrew in particular, and others- “had also been invited” (John 2,2). Knowing this too well, Philip and Andrew were far from thinking of what Jesus wanted and could do concerning the miracle of the bread. His Mother at Cana had taken the lead, pushing Jesus to multiply the wine. She won the day for the joy of the guests. Mary, to whom God refuses nothing, thus managed to anticipate the time where Jesus performs his miracles (John 2,4). That should have inspired Philip and Andrew in their response to Jesus regarding the bread.

I indicate here a fact of bad translation: at Cana Jesus does not say to His Mother: “Woman, why turn to me? etc…” as some translate, but: “What does it matter to you and I, woman? My hour has not come yet” (John 2,4). In other words, to Mary who signals to him that the wine is consumed, He answers: “What has that got to do with you and me? This does not concern us; it is not our business. It is neither my Wedding, nor my hour! At my Wedding the Wine will not lack. Here, no one put me in charge of the wine”. It is in this spirit that we should understand and translate the words of Jesus according to the original text in Greek (see the translation in the Bible of Andre Chouraqui). We should not therefore think as some do, that in the response of Jesus to his Mother, there was a lack of respect toward her. That would be unworthy of the Messiah… Let us not forget that Jesus ends up in granting his Mother’s request.

In his controversy with the Jews, Jesus tells them: “No one can come to me unless he is drawn by the Father who sent me” (John 6,44). He said that because many went to Him believing that He was the Messiah, therefore the political King of Israel. They were thus not attracted by the Fatherly Spirit of Jesus. This crowd ran after Jesus, not for spiritual reasons, but because they were drawn toward Him, like Judas, for political, economic and earthly interests. This is why Jesus says to them: “Do not work for food that cannot last, but work for food that endures to eternal life” (John 6,27). He was speaking of His Body and His Blood, Bread and Wine of Eternal Life (John 6,51-58). Only those who are attracted by the Father are capable of grasping the profound meaning of the spiritual words of Jesus. Those who went toward Him for earthly benefits saw no sense in his words and ended up abandoning Him, as Judas did later (John 6,60-71).

The Water of Life (John 7,37-39)

When Jesus spoke to the Samaritan of the water He gave her to drink, “He was speaking of the Spirit which those who believed in Him were to receive” (John 7,39). To be watered by this Spirit which gives Life to the soul, we must be thirsty for it. The tepid are excluded. Jesus gives this same Spirit in the Eucharist to “all who are thirsty” (Matthew 26,27-28 / Revelation 22,17).

Discourse of Jesus at the Temple (John 7,1-53)

The feast of Tabernacles, also called the feast of the Harvest (Exodus 23,16), commemorates the duration of 40 years in the desert of Sinai under tents (Leviticus 23,42-43). On the occasion of this feast, the Jews went each year in pilgrimage to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices in the Temple. This feast is still celebrated today in Israel.

The “brothers” of Jesus, ie the inhabitants of Nazareth thus say to him, not without irony: “Why not leave this place and go to Judaea, and let your disciples see the works you are doing; if a man wants to be known he does not do things in secret; since you are doing all this, you should let the whole world see.” (John 7,3-4) John explains immediately after these verses that: “Not even his brothers had faith in Him” (John 7,5).

Why did the fellow-countrymen of Jesus push him to go to Jerusalem to manifest himself to the world and at the same time did not believe in him? Furthermore, they knew that “the Jews were seeking to kill Him”! (John 7,1 / 7,13)

One must understand that it is with a cynical and mocking tone that these people addressed Jesus and challenged him to appear before the people as the awaited Messiah. They did not believe that He was capable of being this awaited political leader, capable of satisfying the Israelites thirsty for national independence. Do not forget, in fact, that John the Baptist himself and the Apostles had difficulty in understanding the purely spiritual mission of Jesus and his spiritual Kingdom, which “is not of this world”, as He revealed to Pilate (John 18,35-37).

These Nazarenes spoke to Jesus in the same defying spirit as the devil, who had said to Him: “If you are the Son of God (the Messiah) tell these stones to turn into loaves… If you are the Son of God throw yourself down” (Matthew 4,3-6). It is still in this maleficent spirit that, seeing Jesus on the cross, “the passers-by jeered at him; they shook their heads and said… ‘Then save yourself! If you are God’s son, come down from the cross!’ The chief priests with the scribes and elders mocked him in the same way. ‘He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the king of Israel; let him come down from the cross now (to restore the reign of David), and we will believe in Him!… For he did say: I am the son of God’!” (Matthew 27,39-44) Now, “do not put Yahweh your God to the test!” (Deuteronomy 6,16)

We are able to understand the reason why Jesus responded to his fellow-citizens: “The right time (to be the spiritual and universal King) for me has not come yet, but any time is the right time for you (to wait for the nationalist Messiah). The world cannot hate you (because it awaits the same Messiah as you and has the same spirit as yours), but it does hate Me, because I give evidence (through my spiritual messianism) that its ways are evil. Go up to the festival yourselves: I am not going to this festival, because for Me the time (to be King) is not ripe yet.” (John 7,6-8)

Jesus refused to go to Jerusalem with “his brothers” of Galilee, because he did not want to accompany them in their worldly and opportunist spirit. Indeed, they did not invite Him to go to Jerusalem in a spirit of pilgrimage and reverence, but in a spirit of an election campaign, making use of a religious festival as a springboard for a political goal. This is why Jesus retorted: “I am not going to this festival”, ie I am not going there with you, neither in this spirit displayed here. But John adds, “however, after his brothers had left for the festival, he went up as well, but quite privately, without drawing attention to himself.” (John 7,10) Jesus then goes on to Jerusalem, but in a spirit quite different from the others, since He went up “quite privately”, without seeking to assert himself or make himself known as they thought (John 7,4).

Jesus always refused to reveal Himself in a spirit of hyped-up publicity, to the point that the Jews themselves “were on the lookout for him” (John 7,11), and not He, Jesus, who sought to show-off, like his “brothers” asked of Him. Did He not recommend the Apostles to tell no one that He was the Messiah? (Matthew 16,20)

It is indeed of this discreet Messiah that God spoke to Isaiah, describing him so: “Here is my Servant whom I uphold, my Chosen One in Whom my soul delights. I have endowed him with my Spirit… He does not cry out or shout aloud, or makes his voice heard in the streets”, to make electoral speeches and make himself famous in the world (Isaiah 42,1-2). Those who have spiritual eyes to see, only they, can understand that Jesus is the Christ, the Chosen One of God: “Anyone who has ears should listen”, Jesus often said (Luke 14,35 and Matthew 13,9).

However, it happened that Jesus raised his voice, but it was always to proclaim spiritual truths and to be heard indeed by everyone. In fact, John says: “On the last day and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood there and cried out: ‘If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me! Let the man come and drink who believes in me!’ As Scripture says: From his breast shall flow fountains of living water. He was speaking of the Spirit which those who believed in Him were to receive” (John 7,37-39 / see also Ezekiel 47,1-13 and Revelation 22,2). It is of this same “Water of Life” that Jesus spoke of to the Samaritan woman (John 4,13-14).

The Messiah promised neither an empire over the world, nor temporal glory to His disciples, but the Spirit of God who restores man to the image of God. Those who are thirsty for it, and who turn to Him, will never be disappointed.

It is not this divine Spirit the fellow-citizens of Jesus sought; it is not of this Water they were thirsty for. His disciples, on the contrary, wanted to quench themselves save at the vivifying Source that the Messiah came to open within them. St Paul for example, considered the mosaic worship of the Torah compared to faith in Jesus in saying: “I am a Hebrew born of Hebrew parents, and I was circumcised when I was eight days old. As for the Law (the Torah), I was a Pharisee; as for working for religion, I was a persecutor of the Church; as far as the Law can make you perfect, I was faultless. But because of Christ, I have come to consider all these advantages that I had as disadvantages. Not only that, but I believe nothing can happen that will outweigh the supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For him I have accepted the loss of everything, and I look on everything as so much rubbish if only I can have Christ…” (Philippians 3,5-8) Paul, who was thirsty for the Spirit of Jesus, was not disappointed. He was verily conscious of possessing It since he says: “I too have the Spirit of God, I think (1 Corinthians 7,40) … We are the real people of the circumcision, we who worship in accordance with the Spirit of God; we have our own glory from Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3,3). Paul would not have said these words that he lived through, if he was satisfied with the worship of the Torah, and not satiated from the Water of Jesus.

For us who study this Biblical Course, these words on the Water of Eternal Life are of highest importance; because the purpose of our study is to have the Source of this Water promised by Jesus within us. We are thus directly and personally concerned and interested. This is why we must do our “spiritual assessment”, as already recommended in the beginning of this Spiritual Itinerary. We should know if we are thirsty for the Water of Jesus, if we have drank from it, if “from our breasts flow fountains of living water” (John 7,38). Can we also say like Paul: “I believe that I have the Spirit of God?” Are we thinking like God? Am I as He wants me to be? If such is the case, then happy we are! Happy you! Your study has not been in vain.

Let us thank the Messiah who has given us His Life to grant us this happiness. Do not allow anyone to snatch away this “treasure we hold in jars of earthenware (fragile), to make it clear that such an overwhelming power comes from God and not from us”, as Paul says (2 Corinthians 4,7). Let us remain with God and He will protect us.

Controversy between Jesus and the Jews (John 8,12-59)

In this violent controversy between Jesus and the Jews, Jesus reveals that He always acts according to “what He has seen with His Father”, and that, on the other hand, the Jews who refuse him act according to “what their father does… the devil” (John 8,38-44).

The lesson of these words is that we all act -consciously or unconsciously- after what we contemplate in the secret of our soul. We reproduce acts inspired by the spirit we listen to. If our hearts lean toward God, we behave in a good way, but if we are drawn by the spirit of the devil, then our actions will be diabolical. If the Jews wanted to kill Jesus, it is because they have “the devil as their father”, they are seduced by his dominating spirit and they contemplate him, consciously or not, unceasingly.

Now man, always imitates what he contemplates and admires. This criminal father, the devil, “was a murderer from the start”, Jesus declared. Did he not seduce the parents of humanity, seeking to kill their souls in moving them away from God? The Apostles followed Jesus because it was God they were unconsciously seeking, it is He they were contemplating without knowing. The Christ wanted them to be aware of that when He tells them on the eve of his Passion: “No one can come to the Father except through me… From this moment you know Him and have seen Him.” (John 14,6-7) On this same occasion, he also revealed to them that, without them knowing, they have “the Spirit of truth… but you know Him, because He is with you, He is (already) in you.” (John 14,17)

The Jews wanted a nationalist Christ (John 10,24)

“The Jews gathered around Jesus and said, ‘How much longer are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.’ Jesus replied: ‘I have told you, but you do not believe.’”

The Jews ask for a response, not to submit to the divine requirements which are spiritual, but to lead Jesus to submit to their political requirements, to head of a violent insurrectional movement against the Roman occupation. It was for Him to understand that they are ready for combat if he is the nationalist Messiah. He but has to say the word and they would take up arms and follow him.

The Jewish world forgot what the prophet Isaiah had said of the Messiah: “On Him the Spirit of Yahweh rests… His word (not his sword) is a rod that strikes the ruthless, his sentences bring death to the wicked.” (Isaiah 11,2-4) Jesus never restrained himself from striking Israeli violence with his words to kill the sin of nationalism. But the fanatics refused to hear him, preferring “to die in their sin” (John 8,21-24) rather than renouncing their ambitions of political hegemony, as is the case of the Israelis of the XXth- XXIst centuries who prefer to die rather than renouncing their dream of “Greater Israel”.

The Comforter, the Trinity (John 14,16-31)

John is the only one who has spoken to us so much about the Holy Spirit (John 15,26 / 16,7-15). It is the “Paraclete” or “Comforter” Jesus spoke of (in Greek: “Paraclitos”, and in Hebrew: “Menahem”: John 14,16 and 14,26). This Spirit supported the Apostles and “comforted” them after the tragic departure of Jesus: “I shall ask the Father and he will give you another Comforter (than me) … I will not leave you orphans (without Me); I will come back to you (by this Comforter).” (John 14,16-18) Notice that it is still Jesus who “comes back to them” in the form of the Holy Spirit to “comfort and console” them. Jesus and this Spirit are thus One, like Jesus and the Father are One too. The Father, Jesus and the Spirit are thus One. This text reveals the Trinity.

The consolation comes from the fact that the Christ, after his death, appears -exclusively- to those “who love Him” (John 14,21) to comfort them. But the Apostles did not understand these words. They still imagined that Jesus will be the nationalist king of Israel who will soon manifest himself to the Jews. That is why they ask him: “Lord, do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?” And Jesus tried his utmost, up till the last instant, to explain to them that the kingdom they await is not the one they imagined, but that it is internal: “If anyone loves me he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we shall come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14,23) They were not yet capable of understanding this internal dimension. John wrote all this much later indeed, after having himself understood the deep access of these words. He wrote then to clarify to the other Judaic-Christians to overcome the limits of false Judaism, whose fatal consequence is a nationalism not desired by God. These spiritual lessons are valid for all men of all times… the materialist in particular.

To sanctify the Name of God (John 17,1-26)

Jesus prayed aloud to give His last teachings before leaving the world:

1) Eternal Life consists of “knowing God and his Messiah”, ie in having the true concept of God in oneself, not to imagine Him other than He really is. Only the chosen recognize this “image” of God in Jesus, taking part thus in Eternal Life from henceforth (John 17,3). St Paul says: “If our Gospel does not penetrate the veil, then the veil is on those who are not on the way to salvation; the unbelievers whose minds the god of this world has blinded, to stop them seeing the light shed by the Good News of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Corinthians 4,3-4) That applies today to those who are not able of recognizing the Beast of Revelation, those for whom John’s Revelation remains closed.

To demand a Zionist Messiah means having a misleading image of God. When Jesus asks us to pray: “May your Name be sanctified”, he invites us to purify our concepts of God and his plans of salvation in favor of men. Our stains prevent us from seeing the divine Essence in its purity. A myopic eye sees a face deformed, it is not the face that is deformed, but the eye that looks at it. “Father, heal my eyes so that I can see You as You are. Let your Name be sanctified in me, not disfigured by my blindness”. Jesus asked a blind man: “What do you want me to do for you?” He answered: “Sir, let me see again.” And Jesus healed him at once. We too, must make this request to Christ with faith. Because Jesus is alive, and alive forever, to grant us our prayers. We are waiting for him to say, in our hearts, what he had said to the blind man: “Receive your sight! Your faith has saved you.” (Luke 18,35-43) Jesus says that he came to give sight, the inner Sight (John 9,39-41).

“I have made your Name known to man”, Jesus says to the Father (John 17,6). This Name is no longer that of “YHVH”, as revealed to Moses, but a much deeper and immanent truth to man, written in fiery letters in his intimate life: God is in the heart of believers and hell is a heart without God. God is perfect Happiness. Who knows God as He really is, enjoys perfect happiness: “God is Love”, John informs us (1 John 4,16), and “anyone who fails to love (Jesus) can never have known God (ie does not love Him)”, John also adds, because “God’s love for us was revealed when God sent into the world his Only Son so that we could have life through Him” (1 John 4,9). Such is the “Name” of God, by which we recognize Him: Love! And Love incarnate: the Messiah! This holy Name, for many, is a scandal. But for believers it is Eternal Life. Such is the Name revealed by Jesus, and he alone could reveal.

Jesus revealed this Name of God and said to us that He “will make it known again“, ie in the future (John 17,26). This revelation is done in us, until the end of times, “so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and so that I may be in them“, says Jesus. This immanence of God must thus be perfect in the hearts of believers in order to be in fullness of Him. The Christ, forever living, will continue teaching them Love, the Love that unites and that unites us to the Father.

Those who preach a “transcendence” of God have made of him a distant and false image, not in conformity with the Name revealed by Jesus: a Name “In us“, immanent to a believer, being love and love is never transcendent. The Name of God is “Immanent”.

2) “I am not asking you to remove them from the world, but to protect them from the evil one.” (John 17,15) We should not thus isolate ourselves from the world as some monks and religious persons do. The majority of them are afraid of the world and afraid of facing the realities of everyday life and the difficulties of the testimony of Jesus. They resemble the fearful servant who buried his single talent in the ground, who thus deserved being rejected by the Master (Matthew 25,24-30). We are called “to vanquish the world”, knowing that “you have in you one (Jesus) who is greater than anyone in this world (Satan)” (1 John 4,4). The Apostles never isolated themselves.

It is by remaining in the world with the strength of God that we will be able to save people of good will, misled by the cunning of the world. Those who live in the world, like Jesus, but who have true knowledge of God and true “Name”, do not fear being “lead into temptation”; they will vanquish over worldly seductions in fighting with courage; they will triumph over evil, “the gates of the underworld can never hold out against them.” (Matthew 16,18) We must have this faith!

“My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18,33-36)

Pilate, anxious, asked Jesus if he was the king of the Jews. Jesus answered: “Mine is not a kingdom of this world (Pilate did not have thus to worry or arrest Him); if my Kingdom were of this world, my men (the Apostles and all the disciples following them) would have fought to prevent my being surrendered to the Jews.” Jesus answered thus to Pilate, who was obviously worried, believing that Jesus presented himself as a temporal king of Israel instead of Herod, a friend of the Romans. He wanted to be sure that Jesus was not preparing an insurrection against Rome. It is necessary to notice Pilate’s concern, which worsened in hearing Jesus presenting Himself as the “Son of God”: “When Pilate heard them say this his fears increased…”, says John (John 19,8). Pilate’s crisis of conscience was made even more acute by the premonitory dream of his wife, Claudia Procula, in favor of Jesus (Matthew 27,19). According to tradition, she abandoned her husband after he had delivered Jesus to the Jews. She then became a Christian.

By his response, Jesus wanted to tell Pilate that his mission is not to oppose Rome, otherwise he would have ordered all those who follow him to rise against Herod and Caesar, and to fight by armed violence so “that he is not delivered” to his enemies. All his disciples were waiting for just one word from him to rise up. This is what worried Pilate.

The Jewish chiefs introduced Jesus to Pilate as a revolutionary against the Romans. Luke says that they brought Jesus before Pilate and they began to accuse him by saying: “We found this man inciting our people to revolt (against Rome), opposing payment of the tribute to Caesar, and claiming to be the Christ, a king.” (Luke 23,1-2)

It was this claim to sovereignty which worried Pilate. But seeing that Jesus did not aspire for a political kingdom, he wanted to set Him free (Luke 23,13-16). “But the Jews shouted, ‘If you set Him free you are no friend of Caesar’s; anyone who makes himself king is defying Caesar’ … ‘We have no king except Caesar!’” (John 19,12-15) It is only “then“, ie after this proclamation of the unique sovereignty of Caesar, that Pilate “handed him over to them to be crucified”, John specifies (John 19,16). The representative of Caesar could not resist the threat of being accused of treason to the emperor and to seem in favor of Jesus, after he had been presented to him as a rebellious terrorist against Roman occupation. To be holy, Pilate should have “forced himself” in supporting the just cause of Jesus to the end, at the risk of suffering infamy among men to merit the eternal glory of Heaven.

In the end, we must notice the evil faith of the Jewish chiefs who “incited the crowd to demand that he should release Barabbas”, and that Jesus was condemned (Mark 15,11). “Now Barabbas was a brigand” (John 18,40), “a notorious prisoner” (Matthew 27,16), “with the rioters who had committed murder during the uprising. (against the Romans)” (Mark 15,7) The bad faith of the Jews appeared in the choice of the release of the activist Barabbas, a “famous” Israeli nationalist of the time, and in the condemnation of Jesus as a revolutionary activist, accusing him of being what Barabbas was.

Notice that the Apostles were armed with two swords (Luke 22,38), still believing in an uprising against the established power. When Jesus spoke to them of the decisive fight that they were to carry out, he meant the spiritual fight which they were to face after his crucifixion: “But now if you have a purse, take it… if you have no sword, sell your cloak and buy one… Yes, what scripture says about me is even now reaching its fulfillment.” (Luke 22,36) Jesus was speaking of the sword of the word, of the strength of the soul that the Apostles will have to face before the difficult moments and spiritual struggles that will arise, when “what scripture says about him is reaching its fulfillment” ie his near crucifixion. But they did not understand his words; they believed that the hour of revolt against Herod and Caesar had come. This is why they answered at once: “Here are two swords”. Exasperated by their incomprehension, the Christ answers: “That is enough!” (Luke 22,35-38) Because, as Paul understood it later: “the sword is the word of God from the Spirit.” (Ephesians 6,17) The Revelation explains well that, for Christ, “the sword” is the word, the power of the word of truth: “Out of his mouth came a sharp sword, double edged” (Revelation 1,16), “I shall soon come to you and attack these people with the sword out of my mouth.” (Revelation 2,16)

At the Garden of Olives, during the arrest of Jesus, “his followers, seeing what was happening, said, ‘Lord, shall we use our swords?’ And one of them struck out at the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear.” Jesus intervened to stop his people from delivering him by the sword and says to his Apostles: “Leave (your swords) off! That will do!” (Luke 22,49-51) Receiving no order to fight, “then all the disciples (disappointed) deserted him and ran away” (Matthew 26,56), as Jesus had just foretold them: “Listen; the time will come—in fact it has come already—when you will be scattered, each going his own way and leaving me alone.” (John 16,32)

John remains until the Return of Jesus (John 21,22)

“If I want him (John) to stay behind till I come, what does it matter to you? …”

These words were addressed by Jesus to Peter, regarding John, “the disciple whom Jesus loved”, as John liked to present himself (John 21,20). These words made the disciples believe that the return of the Christ was imminent, that it would take place while John was still alive.

This belief is reflected in the words of Paul to the Thessalonians: “Any of us who are left alive until the Lord’s (Jesus) coming…” (1 Thessalonians 4,15 / repeated in 4,17).

Also, John, seeing his old age and that his time to leave this earth was close (he was approximately 95 years old when he wrote his Gospel), knowing that “the rumor then went out among the brothers that this disciple would not die (before the return of Jesus)”, explains the words of the Savior saying: “Yet Jesus had not said to Peter, ‘He will not die’, but, ‘If I want him to stay behind till I come’ (what does it matter to you?)” (John 21,23).

Paul, who also believed in the immediate return of Jesus, realized his error well before John had written his Gospel. Also in his Second Letter to the Thessalonians, he rectifies what he had said in his first one concerning the Coming of Jesus. He specifies by telling them about this: “Please do not get excited too soon or alarmed by any prediction or rumor or any letter claiming to come from us, implying that the Day of the Lord has already arrived. Never let anyone deceive you in this way. It cannot happen until the Great Revolt has taken place and the Rebel, the Lost One has appeared. This is the Enemy” (2 Thessalonians 2,1-4). This “Enemy”, called “Antichrist” by John, is the enemy of Christ Jesus (1 John 2,22).

Before the Coming of Jesus, at the end of times, a great sign is given to us as a point of reference: the appearance of the Antichrist, the “Beast”, which should be recognized (Revelation 13).

John’s Book of Revelation is given to us for this purpose. It contains the revelations given to John to help us recognize the identify of this ferocious enemy who must appear on the eve of the Return of Jesus. It is in this sense that John must remain in the world, until Jesus comes. It is by his Revelation that John is still in the world, to prepare the believers for this Return because, thanks to this salutary book, we know that the Antichrist has already appeared on earth. The Return of Jesus is thus no longer far away; he is even already present in certain souls.

Here ends the study of the Gospel and the Letters of John. What I have said about his 3 letters is enough to make you read them without finding major obscure points in them.

Now read the Gospel of John and his Letters. Then go to the letters written by the Apostles.

The Letters of Paul

Paul has written 14 letters to affirm the faith of the first Christians, who were mostly Judaic-Christians. His principal concern is to warn them against these adversaries who made every effort to draw them away from Jesus, these Jews who resisted him everywhere and who want to bring the neophytes back to the practice of works of the Torah through all kinds of reasoning. This is why Paul, writing to the Galatians, says to them: “Are you people in Galatia mad? Has someone put a spell on you… Let me ask you one question: was it because you practiced the Law (the Torah) that you received the Spirit, or because you believed what was preached to you (the Gospel)?” (Galatians 3,1-2) “I am astonished at the promptness with which you have turned away from the one who called you… some trouble-makers (the disbelieving Jews) among you want to change the Good News of Christ” (Galatians 1,6-7). That is how the diabolical spirit of the Antichrist acts.

The two letters of Paul to the Romans and the Galatians must be studied together because they tackle the same problem: to prevent the Judaic-Christians from returning to the useless practice of worship and deeds of the Law (Torah): “The Law (Torah) will not justify anyone in the sight of God, because we are told: the righteous man finds life through faith (in Jesus, not through the worship). The Law is not even based on faith (in Jesus) … Christ redeemed (liberated) us from the curse of the Law…” (Galatians 3,11-13) In his letter to the Romans, Paul adds: “A man is justified by faith and not by doing something (the works) the Law (the Torah) tells him to do.” (Romans 3,28) Paul was condemned before the Jews by qualifying the Torah as a curse. But this justified and glorified him before the Father and his Messiah.

Thus, all Paul’s efforts were to convince these Jews become Christian (accustomed to perform a prescribed worship from the Books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy), that these practices of worship are sterile for the soul and that only faith in Jesus as the Messiah, and this faith alone, without the practice of the Law (Torah), can save.

You can at this stage read the Letter to the Galatians.

Before reading the Letter to the Romans, you must know that Paul addresses it to the Christians of Rome. Now, they were divided into two distinct and, alas, adverse communities:

  1. That of the Judaic-Christians, formed of Jews who believed in Jesus.
  2. That of the Pagan-Christians, formed of Pagans (Romans in the majority) who joined the disciples of Christ.

These two communities mistreated each other. The first, formed by Jews, considered the Pagans unworthy of belonging to the people of believers. The Jews who followed Jesus thought that Christianity was reserved solely to the Jews, they had not yet understood the universal dimension of the message of Jesus. Paul then writes to them: “Is God the God of Jews alone and not of the Pagans too? Of the Pagans too, most certainly, since there is only one God, and He is the One who will justify the circumcised (the Jews) because of their faith (in Jesus) and justify the uncircumcised (the Pagans) through their faith (in Jesus).” (Romans 3,29-30)

The Pagan-Christian community in turn despised the Judaic-Christians, believing -wrongly- that the Jews were to be excluded globally from the people of believers because they had rejected Jesus. Paul contradicts them by saying: “I, an Israelite… could never agree that God had rejected his people… there is a remnant, chosen by grace (through faith in Jesus). By grace, you notice, nothing therefore to do with good deeds (of the worship of the Torah)” (Romans 11,1-6). One thus should not close the door in front of “this remnant”, these “chosen” Jews, because they believed in Jesus. The case reproduces itself today, because many Jews -like the movement “Jews for Jesus”- believe that Jesus is the Messiah.

By such sincere, true and peaceful arguments, Paul tries to put harmony between Judaic-Christians and Pagan-Christians, inviting them to “treat each other in the same friendly way as Christ treated you.” (Romans 15,7)

Modern (Zionist) Israelis use such verses, in the same letter, to be accepted by the Christians, misleading them with an artfully false translation translation of Paul’s words and intent. In doing so, the Zionists aim to obtain the support of the Christian world for the State of Israel. Now, Paul’s words neither aim in supporting the State of Israel, nor the Israelis of the XXth and XXIst centuries, but aim at “this chosen remnant” (Romans 11,5) among the Jews, chosen in the past, because of their faith in Jesus. These benevolent words also apply nowadays to the Jews who will believe in Jesus. The nationalist Hebrews of today, by their refusal to recognize Jesus as the Messiah, are the Antichrist (1 John 2,22) and the false Jews denounced by Jesus (Revelation 2,9 and 3,9).

It should not be forgotten too, that Paul gives the Jews a condition to be saved. Indeed, he clearly says: “If they give up in their unbelief (ie in their refusal of Jesus), grafted back in your place (with the people of God)” (Romans 11,23).

Those who think that Paul takes the defense of the Israelis of our time and of the State of Israel must render count that:

  1. Paul is a Hebrew become an Apostle of Jesus. He gave up the Jewish worship of the Torah which he considered as null, even a curse (Galatians 3,13).
  2. Paul violently fought the Jesus negators, considering them enemies of God and of men; he says indeed: “The people who put the Lord Jesus to death, and the prophets too, have been persecuting us, and acting in a way that cannot please God and makes them the enemies of the whole human race” (1 Thessalonians 2,15).
  3. Paul clearly says that the conclusion of his reasoning is the failure of those who are for the State of Israel, and the success of the chosen of Jesus: “What follows? It was not Israel as a whole (an imperialist State) that found what it was seeking, but only the chosen few (the disciples of Jesus have obtained the Holy Spirit and attained the Kingdom of God)” (Romans 11,7).

The Letter to the Romans ends with salutations. Paul addresses them to members of both communities, naming them, one by one, to aid in their reconciliation: Prisca and Aquila are of Jewish origins (Romans 16,3) and Luke mentions them in Acts 18,1-2. You will read the names of the Pagan-Christians mentioned by Paul, making to all, this last recommendation of love: “Greet each other with a holy kiss” (Romans 16,16).

Now read the Letter to the Romans, taking into account that it was addressed to these two communities to reconcile them and unite them in the love of the Messiah, Jesus, inviting the first to rise above the Pharisee considerations condemned by God (see Matthew 5,20), and the second not to fall in turn in their racism by brushing aside the Jews, as such, of the possibility of believing in Jesus.

Because Paul has constantly taught that in Jesus, Jews and Pagans merge: “For He (Jesus) is the peace between us, and has made the two (Pagans and Jews) into one and broken down the barrier which used to keep them apart, actually destroying in his own Person the hostility caused by the rules and decrees of the Law (the Torah). This was to create one single New Man in himself out of the two of them and by restoring peace through the cross, to unite them both in a single Body and reconcile them with God…” (Ephesians 2,14-16)

Knowing that his mission of revealing God and the Christ to the Pagans (Acts 9,15), Paul indeed realized, that he had to fight ferociously against the exclusivism of the Jews who “are hindering us from preaching to the pagans and trying to save them” (1 Thessalonians 2,16).

All the letters of Paul are the fruit of his struggles “to reveal his Son in me, so that I might preach the Good News about Him to the pagans.” (Galatians 1,16) He appreciated the grace of announcing to the Pagans “the infinite treasure of Christ” (Ephesians 3,8), “all the rich glory of this mystery to pagans” (Colossians 1,27), thus becoming the indisputable “Apostle of the Pagans” (Galatians 2,8), as Jesus wanted him to be (Acts 9,15).

Having understood this crucial point concerning Paul, you can now read the rest of his letters.

The letters of Peter, James and Jude do not present any difficulties. Read them.