When I read the Gospel of John there is a strong presence of the narrator. It is easy for me to neglect this fact.
We don’t know who this person was for certain. All of the Gospel writers were anonymous. Their names were only assigned later on as “best guesses.” So, the fourth Gospel writer was given the name of John, attributed to one of the Twelve Apostles, one of the two sons of Zebedee that followed the Lord.
Sometimes it is challenging to know just when the words of Jesus end and the narrator picks up. For example, John 3:16 is one of the most quoted verses in Scripture. Was this Jesus or the narrator’s words?
A person might insist that they were the words of Jesus. I can understand this interpretation. However, I believe that this could have very well been the narrator. Why? John’s job was to give further explanation. He would often do so after Jesus’ actions in order to spell things out for the reader’s benefit.
In the other three Gospels, Jesus would often huddle up with the Disciples to privately expand upon what had just happened. In the Gospel of John, this is more of the narrator’s role. We may have difficulty following because it is an entirely different script than what we are accustomed to in Matthew, Mark and Luke. He does everything he can do to aid the reader.
Besides theological enlightenment, John often inserts brief language helps (such as Hebrew words translated into their Greek equivalent).
Further, in chapter 11, he tells us about Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. John assumes that the reader already knows about her and identifies this particular Mary for us to immediately recognize: “[She] was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair.” When we read ahead, we see her performing this very act in chapter 12. Thank you, John.
There are times that I wish I had my own private narrator. He/she could follow me around and give commentary to others about my words and actions.
I am far from perfect; however, part of what I say and do are expressions of my Christian walk. My faith is lived out and hopefully makes a difference. I usually don’t spell it out to those around me.
Or perhaps I should become my own narrator.
How about you?
Walter is pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church and has served as parish pastor for more than 25 years.