The Supreme Court of the United States is an imposing structure. It commands a certain amount of awe, not just because of its incredible detail, but also due to its weighty history and purpose. The fifth chapter of John’s gospel feels very much like a courtroom; while the Jewish leaders begin by putting Jesus on trial for breaking their rules, they themselves end up in the hot seat as He calls forth witnesses to remind them of His role in inspiring God’s law and executing divine judgment.
As a reminder, we’re taking a world tour through the book of John, noting the highlights of each chapter. If you’d like to join me at this point or start from the beginning and work at your own pace, I’d love your company! For now, though, let’s unload from the bus and take a peek at one of the most intriguing legal scenes in all of redemptive history.
Spend enough time on an Australian walkabout, and you might stumble upon Lake Hillier, a shockingly bubblegum-pink body of water. The fourth chapter of John felt a bit like this to me—we’re traveling along, admiring the dirt-colored scenery, and then BAM! Pink! (I never knew how intently Jesus waited at that well in Samaria for the woman or for me, but it’s been a beautiful revelation.) Let’s pause on this tour through the gospel, slip off our sandals, and dip our toes into the water as we encounter the truer and better Source who will never leave us thirsty.
Oxford University: one of the world’s most prestigious educational institutions, and the next stop on our tour around the globe.* If you close your eyes and inhale deeply, you might be able to imagine the culture of academia surrounding you—freshly sharpened pencils, lots of coffee, and rooms that have housed minds eager to learn for hundreds of years. This is the setting I feel most connects with Jesus’ historic conversation with Nicodemus. (And the argument between John the Baptist’s disciples and a certain Jewish fellow would fit right in, as well.)
As a kid, I loved Mowgli’s adventures with the monkeys of Angkor Wat. Those ruins seemed so exotic, almost magical. Now I consider the piles of Cambodian rubble beautifully tragic: a previously thriving place of worship has crumbled, and all that’s left is an impressive shadow of its former glory. Sure, it draws tourists, but its original purpose is no longer being fulfilled. John 2 takes us from Cana to Jerusalem. While the wedding shows off the abundant exuberance ushered in with Christ’s new messianic age, the temple reveals that His people are being crippled by a religious system that spiritually resembles Mowgli’s decaying playground.
Welcome to the adventure! We’ll be globetrotting through the gospel of John together, and I’m your guide. (Please keep all appendages in the vehicle at all times. And don’t trust the zebras; they have sneaky feet.) What better place to start out than the majestic Taj Mahal?