John field notes 12(b)(1): What the thunder said

‘Now my soul is in turmoil, and what am I to say? “Father, save me from this hour”? No, it was for this that I came to this hour.  Father, glorify your name.’ A voice came from heaven: ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’ The crowd standing by said it was thunder they heard, while others said, ‘An angel has spoken to him.’ Jesus replied, ‘This voice spoke for your sake, not mine.’ (John 12:27 – 30, REB)

Jesus confides in his disciples, shares his inner turmoil with them. Then he sighs, wonders out loud how he should pray, and resolves on a resigned, ejaculatory prayer: “Father, glorify your name.” Just then it thunders.

To encourage him, some of Jesus’ disciples suggest the thunder answers his prayer. “God must be saying, ‘I will,'” Peter says.

“The thunder rolled on too long,” Matthew counters, brightening. He hopes the group’s new mood, brought on by the fortuitous empyrean event, will continue. “I think God is saying, ‘I have glorified it.'”

“So you think the Father is correcting the Son?” Thomas, who is called Didymus, asks, introducing a bit of banter. “Your take may be doctrinally sound, but it doesn’t leave room for the future, which the Master’s prayer expressly concerned. The Father is saying, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”

Jesus lifts his head, looks around at his men with a rueful, broadening smile. “Now you’re seeing as the Son sees, hearing as the Son hears,” he says.

At this point the crowd’s deliberations over the same issue distract Jesus and his compadres. The people outside of Jesus’ inner circle, not privy to his confidential remarks that preceded the thunder, have had less material to manipulate. The crowd debates two possibilities: thunder or an angel speaking to Jesus.

“Let’s clear this up,” Jesus says, winking at his men. Standing and raising his voice, he declares, “This voice spoke for your sake, not mine.” He sits back down among his men, and smiles.

The crowd murmurs its satisfaction.

“Why did you tell them that?” Peter asks. “How is the voice for their sake?”

“Are you as dense as they?” Jesus replies. “Read this broadsheet Matthew’s been writing. Substitute ‘thunder’ for ‘parables.'”

Matthew hands the paper to Peter, who reads aloud a transcript of Jesus speaking to his disciples sometime earlier:

Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. (Matthew 13:13 – 15, KJV)

Puzzled, Peter puts the paper in his lap and leans toward the Master. “So, it’s for their sakes because they don’t understand it?”

Jesus smiles again.

The “What the thunder said” sub-series: This is first in a series of four slow reads (i.e., amplified versions) of John 12:27 – 30. The series, properly a sub-series of my “John field notes” series, is modeled after Kierkegaard’s four slow reads of Genesis 22 in the prelude to his Fear and Trembling. Each of Kierkegaard’s versions of Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac is more believable than the Torah’s version, which says something about us, and because the Bible reads us reading it (a central contention of my John field notes series), the Torah subsumes all of Kierkegaard’s versions of the story in its own.

The “John field notes” series: I’m reading John’s gospel. My reactions here vacillate between notes — a list of impressions — and something less sketchy. A note on nomenclature: the note number in my post’s title indicates the chapter of John’s material I’m reacting to. A title’s letter, though, differentiates the post from earlier posts about that chapter. “John field note 2c,” then, is my third post about something in John’s second chapter. N.B.: 12a may precede 3d: I skip around.