John further emphasizes the deity of Christ by showing his divine authority and his transcendence, that is, how he is above all and superior to all. In chapter 1, Jesus himself is presented as the Word, and as God himself. Jesus is thus greater than scripture itself (at this time, the Old Testament), for the scripture is not God, but a testimony about God and a revelation of God. Jesus is the perfect revelation of God to us. (As Martin Luther said, the Church is under the authority of scripture, but ultimately the Church and scripture are under the supreme authority of Christ.)
We Jesus as lord over nature when he miraculously feeds the five thousand in the desert (John 6) -- which would clearly remind anyone of Moses and the Israelites in the desert being miraculously fed the bread-like manna. Jesus does not hesitate to make the connection when he says that he is the bread of life (Jn. 6.35), thus making a divine claim and claiming to be greater than the most revered prophet, Moses.
John shows us that Jesus is above the Jewish religious law (which was extremely important to pious Jews) and religious tradition as well. We begin with his first miracle, turning water into wine. The large water jars were for water used for washing hands, utensils and dishes - not so much for hygiene, but mainly for religious ritual purposes - rituals not from the Old Testament law, but from man-made laws from later religious scholars. By turning the cleansing water into premium wine, Jesus is making a statement: something newer and far better than the religious laws and rituals has come to replace them - and it’s Jesus himself. (This passage’s inclusion may also be meant to imply that Jesus was superior to the Greek and Roman deities of wine and pleasure.)
Jesus shows his authority over law and tradition again by making contact with a “sinful” gentile woman, the Samaritan woman at the well. As you may know, Jews despised the Samaritans as “half-breeds” (a product of Jews intermarrying with pagan gentiles centuries earlier), who followed a corrupted religion - a mixture of Jewish and pagan elements. He heals a blind man in John 9, and contradicts common religious dogma that people like him were accursed because he or his parents had somehow sinned. He also healed on the sabbath (John 5).
In doing such things Jesus is shown as the lord over law, ritual, and the interpretation of scripture. He makes the bold statement that God cares for all, including gentiles, and he takes a stand against the religious status quo, which was very nationalistic and ethnocentric. The kingdom of heaven is for the gentiles, the poorest of the poor, the handicapped, and the sinners, just as much as it is for the pious teachers or “good” followers of the Jewish faith. All this is actually a radical reinterpretation of religious tradition and scripture, especially in the eyes of the religious establishment. And only one with special divine authority could do and teach such things.
-- K. Lee
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