Translation and commentary
(Jesus said) Hasn’t Moses given you the Law, but none of you keep it? Why are you trying to kill me?
The crowd answered, “You have a demon” Who’s trying to kill you?”
Jesus answered and said to them, “I did one bit of work and you are all thrown into amazement. As far as that’s concerned, Moses gave you circumcision – not that it comes from Moses but from the patriarchs – and you carry out the snipping on the Sabbath. If a male child gets circumcision on the Sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken, why be angry with me because I made an entire man well on the Sabbath. Do not judge by outward appearance but with just judgement.
So some of the Jerusalem people were saying, “Isn’t this the man they’re trying to kill? Yet here he is speaking publicly and they can say nothing to him! Maybe our rulers actually know that this is the Messiah? But we do know where this man comes from. When Messiah comes no one will know where he comes from.”
Then Jesus cried out as he was teaching in the temple, “You know me and where I am from; but I have not come from myself; the one who sent me, whom you do not know, is real. I know him, for I am from him and he has sent me.”
Then they wanted to arrest him but nobody laid hands on him, because his hour had not yet come. Many from amongst the people put their trust in him, and said, “When Messiah comes, surely he won’t do more signs than this man has done!”
The origin of Jesus’ mission is a constantly recurring theme in the Gospel: here is a human person with identifiable human parents and place of birth, yet he claims to “come from” or “have been sent” by the one he calls “father.” Although the language given to Jesus in the gospel is bolder and more absolute than the language of the first three gospels, the mystery and offence of Jesus’ claimed relationship to God is attested in all the gospels. This passage again insists on the paradox of a flesh and blood person insisting that he comes from God. Today we might well send such a person for mental health treatment.
The very rabbinical argument which Jesus gives about circumcision on the Sabbath, is simply suggesting that if work deemed to be of divine importance can take place on the Sabbath, why does this not include the healing of a human life. The unspoken comparison is between the tiny bodily organ affected by circumcision and the whole body healed by Jesus. This is of a piece with the impatience of Jesus, reported in all the gospels, with the pettifogging discriminations of ritual religion.
The persistent theme of Jesus’ “hour” – by which the author means his crucifixion, is again emphasised here, forcing the reader to see the whole ministry of Jesus as a preparation for his death. In a very different way, the gospel of Mark does the same, but the gospels of Matthew and Luke display a memory of Jesus and his teaching, which is less oriented to his death and to the believing community itself, and more to his life and the life of the believing community in society. This remains a weakness of John’s gospel in that it has little of Jesus’ practical wisdom and nothing about believers’ life in society except their opposition to Judaism and the closed “world” of power politics. In this respect it has a narrower focus than Matthew or Luke but perhaps greater depth.