Carson, D. A. The Gospel According to John. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1991.
“Jesus’ Self-Disclosure in Word and Deed (1:19-10:42) B. Early Ministry: Signs, Works and Words (2:1-4:54)” pp. 166-240.
Carson considers that John begins his narrative of Jesus’ “public ministry” in chapters 2-4, though the start of chapter two features a limited audience at a wedding (Carson 1991, 166). This portion of the Gospel features Jesus doing signs of his power. There is a repeated theme of the new replacing the old in chapters 2-4.
John narrates a variety of signs with the stated purpose of poeple believing that Jesus is the Christ (Carson 1991, 167). Carson notes that John’s careful counting of days, which occurs only here, culminates with the sign of turning water into wine on the seventh day (Carson 1991, 168). The sign, then, may be associated with rest.
In the narrative of the wedding at Cana, Carson notes the shame which would be associated with running out of wine (Carson 1991, 169). Jesus’ response to his mother’s request, though not disrespectful, is a rather abrupt and forceful statement (Carson 1991, 171). The reference to Jesus’ “hour” not having come may well suggest his coming death and resurrection. Carson considers Jesus to frequently move discussions of natural or temporal matters to refer to eternal situations (Carson 1991, 172). Likewise, Carson sees the use of a water pot for purification as a vessel for wine to represent a foreshadowing of the abundant joy of God’s cleansed people (Carson 1991, 173). Carson notes the closure of 2:11, where the sign reveals Jesus’ glory. Though the signs are not numbered clearly in the Gospel, most people will identify six or seven (Carson 1991, 175).
Shortly after the wedding, Jesus and his disciples go to Jerusalem for the Passover. Carson suggests that the “cleansing of the temple has not been moved by John out of its chronological order. He thinks, rather, that the clearest reading of the texts points to two incidents, separated by several years (Carson 1991, 178). Carson notes that Jesus did not accuse the people in the temple courts of any wrongdoing other than their location (Carson 1991, 179).
After the cleansing of the temple John records a discussion with Jewish authorities. Carson again notes the idea of replacement, as Jesus pictures himself as the one replacing the temple (Carson 1991, 180). John explains clearly that Jesus was referring to his body being torn down (Carson 1991, 182).
Carson notes the evident faith of people in 2:23-25, but takes Jesus’ choice not to trust the people as a sign that their faith was inadequate (Carson 1991, 184). Jesus’ discussion with Nicodemus follows this immediately. Carson rejects ideas that the encounter with Nicodemus from John 3 is an attempt to place a situation from the time of John’s authorship into the early ministry of Jesus. Rather, he sees it as a very likely real event (Carson 1991, 185). The mention of the encounter being at night is consistent with John’s use of darkness as a metaphor for the spiritual world (Carson 1991, 186). Nicodemus’ questions were likely those of many people. Carson sees him seeking out answers to common questions (Carson 1991, 187).
Carson discusses Jesus’ slightly cryptic statement about being “born again” at some length. The kingdom of God is both a present and a future reality, into which one may enter by being born again (Carson 1991, 188). This appears to be a sort of transformation (Carson 1991, 190). Nocodemus does not seem to know what Jesus is implying. Carson sees Jesus’ words in verses 5-6 as an attempt to draw understanding out of Nicodemus (Carson 1991, 191). The reference to “water and the Spirit” has been interpreted as natural and supernatural birth or birth by baptism. Carson evaluates these and other views. He concludes that the term refers to a conjunction of events in which God cleanses his people, giving them his nature (Carson 1991, 195). In this context the remaining statements of Jesus in verses 6 and following make sense (Carson 1991, 196). Jesus’ authority to speak this way is given in verse 12. He is the one who came from heaven (Carson 1991, 199). The sign of new life is the lifting up of Jesus (Carson 1991, 201). This salvation is rooted in God’s love, which will be reflected in God’s people (v. 16) (Carson 1991, 204). Carson details a number of ways in which God’s love for the world does not interfere with a coming judgment (Carson 1991, 205-206). The judgment and condemnation is avoided by “coming to God” in faith (Carson 1991, 207).
As we move to the end of John 3, starting at verse 22, Jesus is shown as greater than John the Baptist (Carson 1991, 208). Jesus gives the new life, while John gives baptism. Carson maintains that the baptism is a sign rather than being regenerative (Carson 1991, 209). Jesus’ rise in popularity is consistent with John’s desire that a Messiah would be found (Carson 1991, 211). Jesus’ testimony in vv. 33-34 that God is truthful points to the idea that, with Jesus as a witness, God’s word is delivered faithfully. Jesus’ word is, therefore, reliable (Carson 1991, 213).
John moves in chapter four to the narrative of the Samaritan woman. Carson finds this a very nified passage (Carson 1991, 214). Jesus’ move through Samaria avoided considerable travel distance which would be caused by going through Gentile territory across the Jordan (Carson 1991, 216). Since the exile in Babylon Carson observes that Samaritans were not accepted by the Jews (Carson 1991, 216). Jesus’ interaction with a Samaritan woman was surprising on several levels. Carson notes the timing, the cultural barrier, and the matter of a man asking a favor of a woman (Carson 1991, 217). Jesus’ reference to “living” or “running” water is misunderstood by the woman. He is speaking of something she cannot grasp (Carson 1991, 219). By giving the Holy Spirit, Jesus shows he is able to satisfy thirst eternally (Carson 1991, 220). Carson notes that Jesus immediately moves to discuss the woman’s sin as the root of her spiritual thirst (Carson 1991, 221). As to the Samaritan woman’s abrupt change of topic in verse 20, Carson considers that it may not be an attempt at distraction. Having met a prophet it may be a very genuine question (Carson 1991, 222). Jesus’ response in verses 21-24 points to the non-local nature of salvation (Carson 1991, 222). Salvation is found in Jesus, not in a location. Jesus identifies himself as the true and clear revelation of God (Carson 1991, 225). The return of the disciples and departure of the woman in verses 27 and following does point out Jesus’ unusual action in speaking witha woman (Carson 1991, 227). Jesus’ emphasis to his disciples is on his intention to do the Father’s will. Carson sees this as the most clearly stated priority of Jesus (Carson 1991, 228). The work of Jesus brings in the time of harvest. Carson observes the propheteic significance of harvest and the importance of the one sowing as well as the one harvesting (Carson 1991, 230). The Samaritans, in vv. 40-42, believe first because of the woman’s testimony but then because of Jesus’ teaching. God’s promises are confirmed (Carson 1991, 231).
John 4:43-54 describes Jesus’ healing of an official’s son. Carson observes that this passage bears a good deal of similarity to Matthew 8:5-13 and Luke 7:2-10. There are also significant differences (Carson 1991, 233). The adult is a royal official with a son, not a servant, in need. It is not altogether clear to Carson and others what home of Jesus is referred to - Galilee or Nazareth - in verses 4445. Carson notes numerous possibilities (Carson 1991, 235). Regardless, Carson observes Jesus was not honored as he deserved. The official, however, does seek help. His son is dying and he hopes Jesus can heal him (Carson 1991, 238). Jesus makes it clear that faith should be in him, not merely in miracles (Carson 1991, 239).