Jesus’ Knowledge in the Gospel of John – part 2

Part I can be found here: [link]

Jesus on Lazarus

The Lazarus incident has several very interesting features. The first is that Jesus seems to instantly know the condition of Lazarus when he is told that Lazarus is sick:

Joh 11:4 But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

Jesus says it is not an illness that leads to death. But Lazarus dies. Is it the case that Jesus was incorrect but was ultimately made correct through God’s intervention? Is it the case that Jesus knew the entire episode would play out with Lazarus dying and coming back to life? Was Jesus just confident that if Lazarus died, that God would resurrect Lazarus (as evident in Jesus’ claim that Lazarus’ condition would be used for God’s glory)? Was Jesus just under the impression that Lazarus would be healed by God? It is hard to say.

The scene seems to flash forward a couple days until Lazarus dies. Jesus seems to know this, and says:

Joh 11:14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died,
Joh 11:15 and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

Was Jesus waiting for Lazarus to die? Possibly. Did Jesus know that Lazarus would die? Possibly. Did learning of Lazarus’ death prompt Jesus to set out for Judea? Possibly. It is not clear how Jesus has and is using his knowledge here.

Jesus sets out for Judea. In Judea, Jesus meets Martha. Jesus tells her that Lazarus would rise again. The grave is opened and Jesus thanks God for hearing him:

Joh 11:41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.
Joh 11:42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.”

Jesus is confident that God answers all his prayers. This suggests that Lazarus was healed by Jesus’ prayers to God and that God’s power was at work. Does this reflect back to Jesus’ assurances that Lazarus would be healed? Is Jesus just confident that God is powerful and answers prayer, or is this passage about foreknowledge? It seems to be a passage about Jesus’ relationship with God, not about knowledge.

Jesus knows what God will do because Jesus wishes God to do those things. The causality flows from Jesus to God. One would assume the knowledge accompanies this trust. If this is the case, the story of Lazarus might be of one in which Jesus sets up a situation to prove that he has God’s favor. Jesus hears Lazarus is sick, waits for things to turn south, and then arrives to make things right. Again, this text is probably not about knowledge but relationship.

Jesus Has Come for the Hour

In John 12, Jesus is said to have not been weary of the final hour:

Joh 12:27 “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour.

The most straightforward reading is perhaps a rejection of what is written in the other gospels, where Jesus prays to be saved from the crucifixion. If Jesus is saying this in emotionless confidence, then it would be in contrast to his behavior elsewhere. But Albert Barnes attempts to rectify John with the other gospels:

Father, save me – This ought undoubtedly to have been read as a question – “Shall I say, Father, save me?” Shall I apply to God to rescue me? or shall I go forward to bear these trials? As it is in our translation, it represents him as actually offering the prayer, and then checking himself. The Greek will bear either interpretation.

To Albert Barnes, the solution is that Jesus said these words in perplexity. Jesus was wondering if he should pray to be released from the crucifixion or go through with the crucifixion. If this is the correct reading, it fits that Jesus was “troubled” (per the text), that Jesus believed the future was open (per other texts in John), and Jesus could persuade God to forgo the crucifixion (per the other gospels).

Jesus Figures out the Hour has Come

In John 13, the text talks about Jesus coming to the realization that his hour has come. This text is ambiguous. Did Jesus always know the exact hour? Or did something indicate to Jesus that his time had come? The use of “hour” here seems to be a more specific timeframe than other uses of “hour” in John, as consistent with normal figurative speech:

Joh 13:1 Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

This text does not indicate heavily about the extent and use of Jesus’ knowledge.

Jesus Knows Judas will Betray Him

Jesus then proceeds to host the last supper. In this supper, Jesus’ betrayal comes up in conversation. Jesus makes a convert comment towards Judas and the narrator follows with:

Joh 13:11 For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

Jesus then follows this by claiming that Judas’ betrayal is predicted by scripture:

Joh 13:18 I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’
Joh 13:19 I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he.

Calvinist James White claims verse 19 is an allusion to Isaiah 43:10 and a deity claim. Isaiah 43 reads:

Isa 43:9 All the nations gather together, and the peoples assemble. Who among them can declare this, and show us the former things? Let them bring their witnesses to prove them right, and let them hear and say, It is true.
Isa 43:10 “You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me.

John 13:19 and Isaiah 43:10 seem to only share parallel concepts. The words, themselves, seem to have different phrasing. Isaiah has “witness”, “know and believe”, and lacks the “before and after” terminology. It might be a jump in logic to style John as a deity claim based on Isaiah 43 rather than a Messiah claim based on the immediate context. As seen from the woman at the well, knowledge of things gave prophet status, not necessarily deity status.

The previous verse, verse 18, is an allusion to Psalms 41:9. The phrases are directly parallel. Compare:

Joh 13:18 I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’

Psa 41:9 Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.

It would be strange that Jesus alludes to two separate Bible verses in two very different manners just one verse apart. It is more reasonable to think that Jesus is making a combined claim, one that God will raise him up and overcome his enemies (the context of Psalms 41) and that this will prove he is Israel’s Messiah.

In any case, the disciples do not understand anything Jesus is saying (which would make a knowledge based deity claim even stranger). Jesus, later, becomes troubled and point blank says he will be betrayed:

Joh 13:21 After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”
Joh 13:22 The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke.

The disciples continue to be confused and do not understand even after Jesus indicates Judas will betray him. Satan then enters Judas:

Joh 13:27 Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.”

In verse 2, the Devil is said to put it into Judas’ heart to betray Jesus. Is “Satan entering Judas” a figure of speech, meaning Judas acted on the thoughts the devil planted in verse 2? Or was Judas possessed? Why does John 13 introduce the Devil and Satan in relation to Judas? The Devil is mentioned only 3 times in John, and Satan only once. Perhaps, Satan is being used in a sense of personification. Judas became adversarial after Jesus indicated Judas would betray him. Jesus then tells Judas to go, and Judas proceeds to leave.

Jesus links Judas’ betrayal to God being glorified. This links back to John 12:27 where Jesus questions whether to forgo the crucifixion. In John 12, Jesus links his hour coming to God being glorified. In John 12:28, God speaks back to Jesus claiming to be glorified again. Could John 12 have been the defining moment when Jesus resolved on this outcome, cementing the events?

How did Jesus know that Judas was to betray him? Was it based on character (Judas is described by John as robbing the donations (Joh 12:6) and was picked for his bad character (Joh 6:70))? Was Jesus’ knowledge based on fatalism? If so, how does that fix the crucifixion not being a fixed event in John 12. Was Jesus’ knowledge based on the works of the Devil (who entices Judas in verse 2 and is equated with Judas in 6:70)?

The mechanism for this knowledge is probably not fatalism or future exhaustive knowledge. The text goes out of its way to involve the Devil, literally or figuratively. This serves as motivation for Judas.

Part 2 conclusion

Jesus is styled as knowing much about Lazarus, possibly even setting up the scenario. Jesus possibly states that the crucifixion can be avoided if he so wished. Jesus then knows that Judas is in the process of betraying him (predicted in earlier texts).

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