Our Gospel today comes from the end of Chapter seventeen in John’s Gospel, and it offers me the chance to say something about how St. John structured his Gospel. Now, the structure of a writing is not a thing any of us worry about, but I learned its importance in a television interview last week.
A man named Simon Winchester composed an epic about the Atlantic Ocean. His immense volume recalled historical event from all the countries washed by the waters of the Atlantic. The C-Span host asked Simon how he went about writing a book, and he said there were three elements to it. First, you have to come up with an interesting topic, secondly, you must structure your material. The third part, the actual writing, is the easiest part of it.
For the first part of writing his Gospel John’s topic was that Jesus on the spiritual level leads us to the Promised Land just as the Father did it physically for the Israelites.
John, in structuring his Gospel, took the Father’s principal interventions in the books of the Torah, then, in similar places he fitted in dramatic actions by which Jesus echoed each of those highlights. Let’s look at some of them.
1. In Exodus Forty the Father wanted his own tent, and when it erected it glowed with his glory. In John 1:14 we read “He set up his tent with us, and we saw is glory that was like the glory of an only Son.
2. Leviticus Nine described the Fiery cloud that led the people through the darkness. John, in Chapter Eight quoted Jesus as saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness.
3. In Exodus 16:15 the people discovered the manna, and Moses said, “This is the bread which the Lord has given you to eat.” In John 6:18 John quoted Jesus as saying, “It was not Moses who gives real bread from heaven,” then, “I am the bread of life.”
In a like manner, John showed how Jesus echoed other events of the Exodus, where each tribe inherited its own land across the Jordan. In John’s Gospel Jesus said there was a dwelling place for everyone.
This paralleling Johns Gospel with the Exodus story can be seen from the Gospels in the Masses this last month. They are all from the final fourth of John’s Gospel, and they echo the Book of Deuteronomy, the final fourth of the Torah. In them Jesus has summarized the lessons from the first twelve chapters of John’s Gospel, jut as Deuteronomy summarized the lessons of the Torah.