Sunday, February 1, 2009

Jesus and Tabernacle in the Gospel of John

I've recently had the pleasure of reading through the splendid Through New Eyes a second time. Finishing it up about a week ago, I found the following portion worth sharing (pp. 267-9):
TNEOne other point that should be made is this: John's Gospel is not only a commentary on the Tabernacle. John also comments on the various feasts of the Old Testament, and on other matters as well. The Tabernacle is only one dimension, one layer, of his Gospel. With this in mind, let us briefly tour the Tabernacle.

John begins in John 1:14 by saying that "the Word became flesh, and tabernacled among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth." The reference to glory is to the glory-cloud that filled the Tabernacle and was enthroned in it.

John begins where the priest would begin, with the laver of cleansing. Here the priest would wash himself and also the sacrifice before offering it. Jesus is both priest and sacrifice, and also the one who washes His living sacrifices, the Church. Thus, John 1:18-34 concerns the baptism of John the Forerunner. In John 2:1-11, at a wedding Jesus takes water out of "six stone waterpots set there for the Jewish custom of purification" (2:6) and turns it into wine. In John 2:13-25, Jesus cleanses the Temple. In John 3:1-21, Nicodemus engages Jesus in a discussion of the new birth, of water and the Spirit. In John 3:22-36, John's baptism leads to an argument over purification, and a discussion of Jesus as the Bridegroom. In John 4:1-42, Jesus presents Himself as Bridegroom to a Samaritan woman at a well. In John 4:1-42, Jesus presents Himself as Bridegroom to a Samaritan woman at the well. In John 4:46-54, Jesus restores a dying boy to life at "Cana of Galilee, where He had made the water wine" (4:46). In John 5:1-47, Jesus heals a man at the pool of Bethesda, and then gets into a discussion with the Jews about resurrection. This concludes John's section on the laver, which has revolved around water, purification, baptism, resurrection, and Christ as Bridegroom.

John then turns to the Table of Showbread. In John 6, Jesus feeds the five thousand, calls Himself the bread of life, and tells the people they must eat his Flesh and drink His blood (v. 53). In John 7, Jesus presents himself as the drink of life (v. 37), recalling the libations that went with the showbread and meal offerings.

The Lampstand comes next. Jesus presents Himself as the life of the world in John 8. In John 9, Jesus heals a blind man. In John 10, Jesus presents Himself as the Good Shepherd. The connection of this to the Lampstand lies in the fact that David was the Good Shepherd of the Old Covenant, and the Bible repeatedly speaks of David as a lamp (2 Samuel 21:17; 1 Kings 11:36; 15:4; 2 Kings 8:19; 2 Chronicles 21:7). There is a conceptual parallel between a lamp shining in a dark place and the voice of the shepherd heard by the sheep. In John 11, Jesus raises Lazarus, explaining that it is a matter of awakening him from darkness and sleep to light and day (vv. 9-11). In John 12, Jesus comments that those who had not believed in him were blind, but that those who did believe would become sons of light (vv. 35-41).

Starting in John 13, we move through these items of furniture a second time. Jesus washes the disciples' feet in 13:1-20. He breaks bread with them in 13:21-30. Then He moves into a discussion of the Holy Spirit, the ultimate archetype of the seven lamps in the Tabernacle (John 14-16). After this, Jesus prays His high priestly prayer at the altar of incense (John 17).

The Crucifixion and Death of Jesus involved a double motion, in terms of the Tabernacle. The sacrifice was made outside the Tabernacle in the courtyard on the altar. Then, on the day of atonement the High Priest took the blood into the Most Holy and presented it before the Throne of God (Leviticus 16:15). Just so, we see the Lamb of God sacrificed outside the gate, and then He presents His Death before the Father's throne (Hebrews 9:7, 23-26). Under the law, when the High Priest came back out from the Most Holy, still alive, it was a sign that God had accepted the sacrifice. The Resurrection of Jesus fulfills that type. Also, when the High Priest offered the sacrifice on the Day of Atonement, he put aside his garments of glory and beauty and wore a simple linen garment. Agreeably, when Peter entered the tomb, "he beheld the linen wrappings lying there" (John 20:6), because Jesus had put back on His garments of glory and beauty (Leviticus 16:4, 23-24).

When Mary Magdalene looked into the tomb, "she beheld two angels in white sitting, one at the head, and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying" (John 20:12). Arthur Pink comments,
Who can doubt that the Holy Spirit would have us link up this verse with Exodus 25:17-19 - "And thou shalt make a mercy seat of pure gold... and thou shalt make two cherubims of gold, of beaten work shalt thou make them, in the two ends of the mercy seat."
The tomb enclosed by the great stone formed but one more Most Holy Place, all the more so, because here the incarnate Word was placed. Outside this tomb was a garden (John 19:41), a reminder of the garden-sanctuary of the Tabernacle. When Mary Magdalene saw Jesus, she rightly recognized Him as the new Gardener, the new Adam (John 20:15). The Magdalene, restored from her seven demons (Mark 16:9), symbolizes the Church, the new Eve.

John is not finished with his Edenic motifs. As God breathed life into Adam in Genesis 2:7, so Jesus breathes life into His Apostles in John 20:22. As naked Adam hid in the garden, so naked Peter hid in the sea until Jesus restored him (John 21:7). As Adam named the animals, so Peter and the rest of the disciples are told to guard and feed Christ's sheep (21:15-17).

Thus our Lord wrapped Himself in the garment of the old creation, and in His Death and Resurrection created it anew. But what is this new creation like? [source]
For those mildly interested, but not so interested that they want to pay for a hardcopy, the whole book is available for free in PDF form: here.