John is determined to show how the Shekinah has returned in an unexpected way: in the person of Jesus. Then who, when, where, and how of its return is shocking. There could be no messiah without addressing the Temple question. The Messiah would restore the temple. Period. No restored temple, no messiah. The Temple was central to Jewish thought, history, practice, mindset – to everything. If the messiah did not restore the Shekinah, which is the glorious presence of God, there was no messiah. Scripture was very clear on this point. Ezekiel 43 has a beautiful passage describing the return of the Shekinah.
It behooves us to pay attention.
God created a cosmos like a temple and there He had a place to dwell, with humanity. God then saw creation descend into chaos and misery and, as Adam and Eve were banished, He also withdrew the glory of His presence, perhaps because He no longer had a suitable place to come to rest / to dwell / to pitch His tent.
He created the Jewish tribe as a place to dwell. With the tent of meeting, tabernacle, and then Temple, he dwelt among them. The people were fickle and He could no longer dwell among them, and He withdrew. Finally, he sent His only son.
God put a lot of work and planning into creating the Temple as His place to dwell. What does that mean? What does it mean about our relation to God? To Jesus? To the Holy Spirit? What does it mean as individuals and as a people?
The Seven Signs of the Return of the Shekinah
Read the miracle at the wedding feast of Cana. John explicitly says that’s the first sign. As John’s story progresses, he increasingly reveals more and more of the glory of God that Jesus manifests. When Jesus does healing for the nobleman whose son was sick at Capernaum, John’s gospel explicitly names it as the second sign. After that, John leaves the signs to be observed by the readers.
The further signs three through six are: There’s the paralytic at the pool; the loaves and fishes; healing the man blind from birth; and Lazarus. Each progressively reveals more glory.
The Seventh Sign
What is the seventh sign of the increased revelation of glory? The sign greater than Lazarus’ resurrection? What would you pick?
I would pick the resurrection. Max glory, I would say. Can’t top that!
That’s not what John’s gospel picked. John picked the crucifixion as the summit of the return of the Shekinah.
We know this because Jesus’ last words were: It is finished. These words invoke God’s words when he rested on the seventh day of creation, and signal that Jesus is kicking off the new creation right then and there. The resurrection is testimony to the crucifixion and inauguration of the new reality in the new creation.
Max glory: Crucifixion. The Shekinah has appeared and been revealed. Ecce homo.
What does this mean?
We think it is crucial to view the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the context of the story they tell about themselves through their words, deeds, and revelations.
Theological formulae about atonement and the Trinity are indispensable but ultimately reveal very little. I’ve heard a bunch of atonement theories. Heard a bunch of questions asked and answered. That’s fine and even necessary. But it gives little light. These kinds of formulae and explanations perhaps obscure as much as they reveal.
How is it that the crucifixion is the final sign of the full revelation of God’s glory returning to His people?
What’s in the story, the narrative, that John provides us that gives us answers?
Many books could be written in response!
It seems to me (Curtis) that, if the crucifixion is the final sign of the return of the Shekinah then one thing that God is telling us is that his glory is revealed when He shares and meets us in our suffering.
His story always involves Him coming to find a place to dwell among us, all throughout the history of humanity.
There is so much suffering here. Only God could sort all of this out. He meets us in the midst of it all. He is bringing His presence, His gaze, and His hope.
The New Creation
Looking ahead to the upper room, considering that the crucifixion marks the start of a new creation – and thinking about the Genesis story of breathing life into humanity…what does it mean in John 20 when Jesus breathes on them?
If you're liking The
Catholic Midlife Podcast,
Download the free guide:
We are Karen and Curtis Herbert, founders of The Catholic Midlife. Our mission is to spark a catholic midlife renewal and help YOU to step into your next season with purpose, hope, and a clear vision for the rest of your life.
Because the rest of
your life matters.