The Good Book Club | Week of February 2
This week: John 9:35—12:11

Some who are blind can be healed. Jesus has just healed a man of physical blindness with a concoction of mud and saliva, but we know that this sign is also an allegory. Jesus can heal both physical and spiritual wounds for those who truly seek him, but the Pharisees are certain they know all the answers and their eyes remain closed to the truth.

Jesus again tries to reason with the Pharisees and teach the crowds who follow him. As he does throughout scripture, Jesus uses language and situations that are accessible. In this case, he talks about the shepherd and his sheep, a scene familiar to an agrarian crowd but that also harkens to leaders such as Moses, who was called a shepherd. We hear one of the great “I am” statements of the Gospel of John, with Jesus telling them “I am the good shepherd…I know my own and my own know me.” This passage recognizes our fundamental desire to know and be known, and Jesus assures us that he calls us by name. Further, not only does Jesus know us, but also we recognize his voice. Other so-called shepherds in the world will beckon us to enter into their gates. But Jesus wants us to enter the true gate, through him.

Though some come to believe, many are still perplexed. They follow Jesus like petulant children, begging him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” It seems Jesus’ patience is tested. I’ve already told you , he replies. But then he, like all good teachers, tries a different approach to open their eyes. Alas, scales still cling to the eyes of some, and they try to arrest him, but Jesus escapes and makes his way across the Jordan.

Only the Gospel of John records the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. This account has all the makings of a blockbuster drama, a real life and death and life story. Although this is our first and only introduction to Lazarus, it is clear that he has a close relationship with Jesus, for his sisters send the message, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But Jesus’ reaction is not what we might expect. While most of us would drop everything and race to the side of a dying loved one, Jesus stays two days longer. This, no doubt, flummoxes Mary and Martha, and when Jesus finally arrives, Martha responds quite naturally with frustration: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” But then Martha follows with an extraordinary witness: “But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” Even now, as Martha is wracked with grief, she places complete trust in the will of God. Sit with this for a moment. How many of us would be so quick to respond with such open-hearted trust?

We move to the crux of the story—and the heart of the gospel: “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they died, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” Read that sentence again. And now add this piece of context: Martha and Mary don’t have the same knowledge that we have, that Jesus literally rises from the dead. Yet Martha believes. That, in itself, seems like a miracle.

But wait, there’s more. Jesus comes to the tomb with Martha and Mary and other friends of the family. Their grief, along with his own at the death of his friend, moves Jesus to weep. Then, in a foreshadowing of his own death and resurrection, Jesus calls upon the people to roll away the stone and cries, “Lazarus, come out!” And a man, with the stench of four days dead, rises.

While this wondrous work converts many, others are afraid, and they run to the Pharisees to report the incident. The Pharisees’ response is painfully human: They seem less afraid of the act itself than they are of how they might lose power and control because of it. “This man is performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation.” Caiaphas stands up to his fellow Pharisees but the die has been cast, and orders are sent out. Jesus is a wanted man.

We are very near to the Passover, to Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, the crucifixion, and his triumphant resurrection. The drama continues to unfold. A New Testament commentary from InterVarsity Press sets the scene: “The people around Jesus are being caught up in the climax of all of salvation history. They are acting for their own reasons, yet they are players in a drama that they do not understand, doing and saying things with significance beyond their imaginings.”

Our last reading for the week brings us to an intimate moment of Jesus spending time in Bethany with his friends, including Martha and Mary. In the Gospel of Luke, we hear about Martha bustling around, preparing food for Jesus and the disciples, while Mary sits at Jesus’ feet, having chosen “the better part.” In John, we see more of Mary at Jesus’ feet, only this time she rubs his feet with spikenard, a precious oil that costs the equivalent of a year’s salary. Judas, who we know will betray Jesus very soon, sneers at Mary about the cost—and then claims with a false humility that the money could be better spent on serving the poor. Jesus knows Judas’s true motivations are far less benevolent: “Leave her alone,” Jesus tells Judas. “She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

All of the signs and works throughout John point to the same thing: Jesus is the way to new life. Ironically, Jesus’ miracle of giving Lazarus new life sets in motion the actions that will take his. The story with Mary foreshadows not only Jesus washing the feet of his disciples but his impending death. In this drama, we know the rest of the story, which is not the end, thanks be to God, but the beginning. 
Read Week 1 , Wee k 2 , Week 3, Week 4

1. Jesus often used the imagery of sheep and shepherd to teach the crowds. What metaphors might he use today that would resonate with you?

2. What does it mean to you that Jesus knows you by name? Do you have any relationships with other people where you know and feel truly known? How can you nurture and strengthen those bonds?

3. What is your reaction to the news that Jesus doesn’t immediately come to see Lazarus? Why do you think he waits two days? How does that make you feel?

4. Imagine yourself as a spectator with Mary, Jesus, and Judas. Would you question the wisdom of using a year’s salary worth of perfume? When have you been extravagant for Jesus?
 Partner Spotlight

Want to go deeper into the scriptures? Each week, The Living Church’s Covenant blog explores the text from John. The commentaries offer a deep dive into various aspects of the readings, from how Jesus reveals himself through encounters with strangers to the words of eternal life.

The Living Church Foundation, Inc., is an independent, not-for-profit foundation of communion-minded and committed Anglicans from several nations, devoted to seeking and serving the full visible unity of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. 
Another resource is a video series from The Hive , an online wellness and spirituality community centered around particles that strengthen faith and hone the modern mystic sight.
In a series of videos, the Hive is exploring the seven famous “I AM” statements found in John. In these statements, Jesus tells us who he is so that we can better know who we are. Each video induces teaching on the scripture as well as motivational meditations and are great for individuals or groups. Join in discussion on Facebook or watch the videos at .

Participant spotlight

We love hearing from people across the church who are participating in the Good Book Club. Here are shout outs to those studying John together. Kudos to:

  • The people of St. Peter’s in Bon Secour, Alabama, for their weekly Bible study and book discussion on the Gospel of John. Thanks to Susy Davis, a member of the vestry who oversees formation, for sharing their involvement.
  • The adult education classes on Sundays and Mondays at St. Paul’s in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania. Writes Susie Vollmer: “Thank you for the preparation that has gone into this program. I look forward to seeing people’s lives impacted by this opening of the scriptures.”
  • Birgit Funck Shorack, who writes from Venezuela and is starting a reading/study group with her Spanish-speaking friends. (Visit Club Biblico for more resources)

Judy Rose of St. John’s Episcopal Church in St. Cloud, Minnesota, shared her congregation’s journey with the Good Book Club since it began in 2018. She writes:

“Members…were invited by Deacon George Ham to take part in the Good Book Club reflecting on and discussing the Gospel of Luke and Acts. The group was diverse and attendance of at least eight to twelve participants attending each session. We as a group decided to also follow the Good Book Club offerings on both the Gospel of Mark and letter to the Romans.”

“Many of the participants found the short reflections and questions in the books  Journey Through Acts, Journey Through Mark , and  Journey Through Romans  very helpful in perusing the scriptures as well as the reflections from Forward Day By Day . The group found the questions aided in applying the readings to personal growth. Hearing the insights and questions of participants helped each of us to broaden our understanding of scripture. We found it helpful to see some of the differences between the gospels as well as coming to understand for whom these gospels were written. Participants expressed that they gained insight into one’s responsibility to the church, to one another, and to oneself in doing God’s work.”

“One of the highlights of our walk through Romans was a full-day seminar, Paul Found In His Letters ” presented by the Rev. George Martin. The seminar, held at St. John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota under the auspices of the Episcopal School for Formation, concentrated on the letter to the Romans. A number of members from our study group attended the seminar. I believe this experience drew us closer as a communal group giving us a sense of an Emmaus experience—‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us!’ (Luke 24:32).”

How are you participating in the Good Book Club? Share your story with us (and send pictures too, if you have them!). We’ll highlight participants from across the church. Send the information to Richelle at .

Let’s learn from and be inspired by each other!