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Narrative Technique

Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator

Whenever we read the Gospels, especially when we read them by dividing them up into short passages, we have to remember that the original intention of each of the evangelists was to tell a story, to write a narrative. Unless we read the Gospel straight through, that intention is oftentimes difficult to discern. I believe that is the case with the short passage we read from St. John's Gospel today. That passage ends with these words.

Many came to him and said, "John performed no sign, but everything John said about this man was true." And many there began to believe in him. (John 10:41-42)

Jesus and the Pharisees had just engaged in a public confrontation in the Temple. Though the Pharisees had tried to arrest Jesus, they had been unable to do so because of the crowd. Both parties to the dispute go their separate ways, the Pharisees to the Sanhedrin quarters and Jesus to an area across the Jordan. John is deliberate here in chronicling a geographic separation. It illustrates the gulf that exists between Jesus and the Jewish authorities. However, it is not simply Jesus and the Pharisees who separate; the crowd does the same thing. Some come to Jesus while others join the Pharisees in their plot against Jesus.

This verse sets us up for the story that will follow in chapter eleven, the raising of Lazarus. In John's Gospel, it was this story that brings the "Book of Signs" to a close and prepares us for the "Book of Glory." John states that the raising of Lazarus was the sign that set the passion and death of Jesus in motion. The last of the seven signs of John's Gospel is the one that definitively separates the protagonist and antagonists. The Pharisees realize that if the people believe Jesus can conquer death, they will lose the struggle. So they choose to kill Jesus.

Ironically, by making this choice, they are responsible for initiating the struggle that results in the ultimate victory of life over death. They kill Jesus; God raises him up. Jesus puts down his life, but then he takes it up again. Indeed, everything that John and the prophets have said about this man is true.

Every good narrative must include events that move the story along. Today's passage does just that as it prepares us for the climax of the narrative.

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