Scholars typically divide John’s Gospel into two parts, the Book of Signs and the Book of Glory. This would come as no surprise to a student of Sacred Scripture, since the term “sign” (σημεῖον – ‘semeion’ Strong’s 4592) appears fourteen times in the first half of John’s Gospel, while “to glorify” (δοξάζω – ‘doxazo’ Strong’s 1392) occurs about seventeen times in the second half of John’s Gospel.
Why did John set about with this narrative structure? Probably because he noted that Mark’s, Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospels rather slavishly preserved the parables of Christ. The structure of the Synoptic Gospels is somewhat circumscribed by the need to preserve the parable and stories of Jesus, which can appear to be recorded in no particular order in the synoptic Gospels.
The fourth Gospel abandons the parables of Jesus completely, since the author knows that they have already been recorded. And what does this accomplish? It allows the author of the fourth Gospel to focus on the actions of Jesus, rather simply tell us the parables and metaphors that Jesus used to teach the crowd. The result is impressive. John compiles a very powerful, moving, and convincing narrative about the works of Jesus and his relationship with his disciples and his critics.
In order to achieve his goal, the author of John’s Gospel intentionally structures his story of the life and work of Jesus in two parts. First, chapters 2 through 11 record seven miracles or signs that Jesus performs during his ministry. These seven miracles are central to the first half of John’s Gospel. They are also ‘proto-sacraments’ – visible evidence that Jesus is the Christ and Son of God. Second, chapters 12 through 21 record the Passion of the Lord and his resurrection, with considerable attention paid (in chapters 14 to 17) to his Last Supper discourse.
In John chapter 2, Jesus shows some impatience when he is asked to resolve the matter of the shortage of wine at the wedding at Cana. He tells his mother, my hour has not yet come. He refers to his hour of glory, the appointed time when he will be lifted up on the cross. In John 12, he tells us that the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. In today’s Gospel passage, he says now has the Son of Man be glorified.
The hour of Christ’s glory is the time of his Passion – the Last Supper, his Death and Resurrection.
In John’s Gospel, Jesus uses the time allotted to the ‘hour of his glory’ to share one last discourse with his disciples. In other words, at the Last Supper, he has some departing words for the Apostles. It is also Jesus’ longest speech in the fourth Gospel. And in much the same way that the structure of John’s Gospel differs from the Synoptics, his parting discourse stands in stark contrast to the Pauline theme of grace and justification. In fact, the words grace and justification are virtually unmentioned, and in Christ’s discourse, the theology of justification is totally non-present. The dominant motifs are ‘love’ and the ‘Father’s glorification of his Son.’
Love One Another
The absence of a theology of justification is not a random observation. Christ repeatedly tells the disciples that they are called to not only share in the Father’s love for his Son, but to imitate it. Jesus tells the Apostles that God is glorified not only through his Son’s Passion, but also “when you bear much fruit and become my disciples” (Jn 15:8). Jesus then proceeds to explain that they will bear fruit when they “love one another As I love you.” In other words, the Apostle’s mandate is to imitate and propagate the love that God has for his Son, and the love that the Son has for the Apostles, with others.
This metaphor is central to Christ’s discourse. God loves his Son, and glorifies his Son during his Passion. The Apostles, too, are glorified (or give glory to the Father) when they show the same love for others that Christ showed them. Jesus reinforces the analogy when he asks his disciples to “remain in him,” which means to stay close to Christ – by imitating the love Christ has for them. Thus the analogy becomes a virtuous circle. God loves his Son, who offers his life for others, and God is glorified through his Son’s work. At the same time, the Apostles are called to love others the same way Christ loved them. In this way, they “remain in Christ” and glorify the Father through their sharing in and imitation of Son’s selfless love for others. Jesus concludes his discourse in chapter seventeen by recapitulating this exitus and reditus of love in verses 20 to 26.
When Judas had left them, Jesus said,
“Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.
If God is glorified in him,
God will also glorify him in himself,
and God will glorify him at once.
My children, I will be with you only a little while longer.
I give you a new commandment: love one another.
As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.
This is how all will know that you are my disciples,
if you have love for one another.”