”Where Is God?”
Pastor Jerry Donovan
The evangelist John is writing to a community of believers at least forty years after the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In chapter 14 of the Gospel of John we learn that people who show they love Jesus by keeping his word will be loved by God. God and Jesus will come and make their dwelling in them.
John’s Gospel is the only one of the four that identifies Jesus as God. He will state at the end of his theological biography of Jesus Christ, that there was much more that Jesus did and said that he did not record, so it can be safely assumed that what he did record was most likely written to address the situation of late first century believers. Before the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in the year 70 CE some Jewish Christians combined their worship with Jewish worship practices, as we read in Acts 2:46-47.
But after the Temple was destroyed Jewish and Jewish Christian life changed dramatically. The priestly class, the Sadducees, lost their power with the end of the worship that was practiced at the Temple. Scripture and its interpretation became one of the defining marks of Jewish religious life, and teaching and interpreting Scripture was the domain of the Pharisees better known as rabbis and the synagogue. The conflicts between Jewish Christians and synagogue-based Judaism became intense in the years following the destruction of the temple, as Jews and Christians worked to establish their religious identity within the Roman Empire.
Many Biblical scholars see John’s Gospel as representing a transitional point between two ideological theological developments. Before John’s Gospel, certain Jewish writings personified Wisdom themes of creation, justice, retribution, and ethics. The OT books of Job, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes are thought of as books of wisdom. After John’s Gospel, Christian theologians developed a doctrine of the Trinity according to which God could be understood as three in one: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, three persons, but only one God.
John sketches the rationale for the Christian and the Church. He depicts those who keep Jesus’ word as dwelling places of God and Jesus in the world. Loving Jesus and keeping his word may have many countless examples, but at a fundamental level it must mean being a lived-out word of God’s offer of love, just as Jesus was.
John does not abandon the traditional ideas of second coming and heaven, but he does put the emphasis on the here and now. In the face of the chaos of rejection of God we are called to be people who serve as dwelling places for God. The image is not of homes huddled away in seclusion away from the dangers, being a city for themselves, but of residences in the midst of life. After all, the God who takes up room and board does not want all our attention as a selfish guest, nor comes to retire into the recliner. Rather this is the guest who refreshes, encourages us to come out of ourselves and join in the adventure of creation and challenges of healing and liberation in the world, and leads us also to rest. Ultimately the comfort is not so much a promise of what lies beyond death, although that is clearly there, but the promise of a sense of the presence of God, and of Jesus, and of the Spirit – all merged in John’s spiritual theology summarized like this: look less for God’s heavenly dwelling place in the future, and more to be the dwelling place of God here and now. In that is peace.