The final example of what life is NOT is ‘born...of... a husbands will.‘ Once again KJV comes to our rescue to help us understand what is going on. In the KJV this is translated,‘nor of the will of man.‘ Herb Newton makes a good case for understanding this, not as referring to the natural compulsion to procreate, but instead to patriarchy, or hierarchy. Rome divided society up into clear hierarchical classes. The emperor was at the top of this hierarchy, men were close to the top, women lower. Free men were higher than slaves, wealthy higher than working men. Romans higher than other ethnic groups and nations. And Rome put a great deal of time and energy into making sure that people staid in their classes in this hierarchy. This is what ‘patriarchy‘ is. We know enough of the gospels to know that Jesus did not abide by this clear distinction in classes. He spoke to women, interacted with wealthy and impoverished, visited Romans, Jews, and Samaritans. Called working Jews to be his disciples, instead of the young sons of wealthy patrons.
Even today, we do see hierarchy. We see it in the way that the impoverished are spoken of as ‘lazy.‘ We see it in the wages paid to women when compared to the wages paid to men. We see it in the schizophrenic relationship we have in this nation with workers from Latin America. We depend of them to do the jobs we don’t want, the jobs we don’t want to do, we don’t want to pay higher wages for. Yet we blame them for our economic woes. We see it in the number of African-American’s in our prison system. As much as the story of America tells us that there are no second class citizens, in actuality, we are divided by ‘class.‘ A life that built on this foundation is not life, the writer of the gospel proclaims to us.
What makes the prologue of the gospel of John so challenging is not simply that it begins to chip away at the foundation of life, a foundation that our lives are built upon, even though we may not realize it, but also, that it warns us that we may resist the new life Christ brings. ‘The world did not recognize him,’ the writer says. Historically I think we have focused too much on ‘his own did not receive him,’ which takes us off the hook. But it is the world that does recognize. Which to me suggests that we all have more to experience, to receive of the full life, true life, eternal life manifest in Christ. Which begins by allowing the gospel of John to chip away at the foundation of our lives that are built upon the three things we have discussed yesterday and today. How does it feel to have John suggest that we do not fully understand life? That our understanding of life needs to be corrected?