John K. Stendahl
John Stendahl is pastor of the Lutheran Church of the Newtons (ELCA) in Newton, Massachusetts.
“Life isn’t fair,” my four-year-old granddaughter once told me. She offered this judgment as a thoughtful observation, not a whining complaint. I remember taking genuine pleasure in her remark—not just a delight in her early capacity for philosophical reflection, but also a sense that this particular wisdom could be of blessing in the life ahead of her.
Some years back, I was surprised to hear John called the beginner’s Gospel. Surely the Gospel to begin with was Mark, the shortest and most likely the oldest, or Luke, with all those wonderful stories. John seemed to me a second-semester topic—or a graduate-level course. I saw it as an astonishing theological elaboration and re-presentation of the person of Jesus of Nazareth seen in the other books. The testimony of those sources needed to be heard first, I thought, before John’s majestically self-describing Christ could be understood.There was an additional reason that I thought it a mistake to hand the fourth Gospel over to “baby Christians.” I thought the book dangerous.
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