Review | The Gospel of John: When Loves Comes To Town

When I worked at Trinity International University’s bookstore, we stocked shelves and shelves of Bible commentaries. At the beginning of each new semester, a few gung-ho young seminarians would come in to the store and browse the commentaries in order to debate the the academic and theological street cred of various authors. Most seminarians couldn’t afford to buy many commentaries, but they sure did like to window shop! I browsed my fair share of commentaries as well, and borrowed armloads of them when I was working on my own books about the parables of Christ. As a result, I developed a few opinions about commentaries:
  • I enjoyed the work of commentators who could give me accessible historical, cultural or linguistic background. Key word here: accessible.
  • I valued the authors who tried to let the text speak for itself, instead of insisting it serve their own theological or political agenda.
  • I was challenged by the work of commentators who wrote with a pastor’s heart – those willing to apply the text to their own lives as well as the lives of their readers.
  • I appreciated the writing of commentators who could contextualize their words for their particular culture and time while simultaneously affirming the timelessness of God’s story. 
  • I gave bonus points to commentators who could actually write, versus spewing breadcrumb-dry academic-speak.
If Paul Louis Metzger’s The Gospel Of John: When Love Comes To Town (InterVarsity Press, 2010) had been available during the years I worked at the bookstore, I would have interrupted a few of those students browsing the commentary aisle in order to direct their attention to this readable volume, the first of the new “Resonate” series which will be edited by Metzger. When Love Comes To Town is exactly the kind of volume I can sink my teeth into. 

Metzger, a professor of theology at Multnomah Biblical Seminary, explains the “why” behind this series:

     Our aim with this distinctive new genre or approach is to have one finger in the ancient Scriptures, another in the daily newspaper, and another finger touching the heart, all while pointing to Jesus Christ…Each contributor to Resonate seeks to bear witness to Jesus Christ, the living Word of God, through the written Word in and through their own life story and the broader cultural context. So often we go around Scripture to Jesus or stop short at Scripture, not penetrating it to get to Jesus’ heart – which is the Father’s heart too.

When Love Comes To Town is divided into six main sections following the chronology of the Gospel. Each of those sections is subdivided into smaller slices that allow Metzger to invite readers to taste the wonders of each recorded moment of Jesus’ ministry. For instance, here’s what he had to say about the way Jesus chose to heal the blind man in John 9:

     …the very means Jesus uses to heal the man of his blindness should tell you that his life is about to get messier…Jesus spits on the ground to make mud, places the mud on the blind man’s eyes and has his go to a pool to wash (John 9:6-7). Couldn’t Jesus have chosen some other means? Knowing Jesus, however, he wouldn’t chose some other means. Why would he, given how he and his Father tend to operate? Just think for a minute. Jesus’ whole life is a bit messy, from beginning to end – from being a baby thought by many to be born out of wedlock on a not-so-silent night, to being a supposed messianic pretender dying a criminal’s death on an old rugged cross.
     Life was so much easier for the man born blind before meeting Jesus. He depended on his parents from birth, and on the Jewish welfare system too. He didn’t have to do much, just as he didn’t have much to do. But now his life changes drastically, suddenly. It gets messy.

This commentary drew me into the dust and heat of conflict while at the same time inviting me to follow Jesus away from the poppy field lure of a comfort-seeking life. Metzger blends voices and references from contemporary culture (Will Ferrell!) with the words of scholars like D.A. Carson and Craig Keener, all with a single goal – to help each one of us move off the La-Z-Boy and into the way of Jesus. Highly recommended.

* I received a comp copy of this volume from the publisher.

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2 thoughts on “Review | The Gospel of John: When Loves Comes To Town”

  1. Thanks Michelle, it is quite encouraging to see really a good commentary. All commentaries should be like that. Since the scriptures are for good teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, all the commentaries should also be good for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. I think I will go and get one pretty soon, even though I have a few commentaries of John.

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