Toward the end of today’s Gospel St. John remarked, “Now the Passover of the Jews was near.” That seems to be a simple reminder that Jesus and his disciples were approaching the great spring festival of the Passover. However, nothing is really simple in John’s Gospel. It is a beautifully crafted spiritual document.
We see a hint of its hidden depths when we note that the phrase, “the Passover was near” which we find here in Chapter Eleven, also appears toward the end of Chapter Two, and at the beginning of Chapter Six. Its reoccurrence is tied to the basic plan of St. John’s Gospel.
Although we customarily use the word Passover to refer only to the Passover meal, St. John uses it to refer to the whole Exodus story from beginning to end. Like every classic story, it has a clear beginning, middle, and end; and John earmarks each part with the phrase “the Passover of the Jews was near.”
John’s plan links Our Lord’s task of bringing us to our promised land to the task of Moses leading the Israelites to their Promised Land. He first alerted us to that parallelism in Chapter One, verses 16 and 17 where he stated, “From his fullness we have received, grace in place of grace (the leadership of Jesus in place of the leadership of Moses) because while the Law was given through Moses, grace and truth comes through Jesus Christ.
That Passover of Moses began with God having a separate tent set up for himself, John echoes that in 1:14 when he wrote, “He set up his tent with us.”
The Book of Exodus, Chapter 40, tells us that as soon as Moses had that tent ser up “The glory of the Lord filled it.” Similarly, in Chapter One, that verse 14 goes on to say, “and we saw his glory.”
In the middle section of the Passover of Moses God gave the people bread from heaven, he led them with a cloud of fire by night, and he gave them water from a rock. In the middle section of John’s Passover story Jesus said, “It was not Moses who gave you bread from heaven.” Jesus said, “I am the light of the world, whoever follows me will not walk on darkness.” Jesus said, “Let anyone who thirsts come to me.”
In the final section of is Passover story Moses sent scouts into the Holy Land to section out the land for the tribes. In John’s Passover story Jesus said, “I am going to prepare a place for you.”