The Gospel of John: When Love Comes to Town
Author: Paul Louis Metzger
Publisher: IVP Books (www.ivpress.com)
The Gospel of John: When Love Comes to Town, which is part of the new Resonate Series of commentaries, is “a hybrid commentary where the best in biblical scholarship is coupled with theological reflection of the text that is accessible to the lay person.” This is written for the non-academic. Instead of a verse by verse exegesis, author Paul Louis Metzger breaks the gospel of John into sections of thought that he makes into easy to read essays.
What makes this fun are frequent references to popular culture. Each one is done with an eye toward making scriptural truth relevant to everyday life. Occasionally, some readers may find the modern analogies tiresome, but Metzger uses them judiciously with dignity. Those who are averse to having U2 or other cultural icons invade their sacred space may want to skip this.
This makes an excellent companion to the standard commentary in the same way that a modern translation of the bible is a compliment to a more literal translation. Both are helpful for study.
Those who favor inspirational and application-oriented material will be well served. Most sections are short enough that they can serve the same purpose as a daily devotional.
It’s unique to be able to read a commentary like a book. Most commentaries are not written in an essay style. Don’t be surprised if this becomes a forerunner for others, and that’s not bad. There are plenty of formal commentaries, with more being written all the time. There is a real need for making scholarly learning accessible and relevant to Christians outside the academic community without compromising the truth of Scripture. The author succeeds admirably.
I welcome the other volumes in the series. Church leaders and teachers will find them useful for sermon and lesson preparation, but again, they are written for Christians and even seekers who may not be schooled in the world of Scripture.
Indicative of the author’s humility, and a favorite essay, is “Doormats and Red Carpet” on John 13. “I like being called a servant leader,” Metzger says, “until someone treats me like one.”
The red carpet refers to the triumphal entry in John 12 where a crowd rolls out the red carpet for Jesus. But Metzger sees Jesus rolling out the carpet, “Unlike most people for whom red carpets are rolled out, Jesus rolls out the red carpet for us because of his love for us and not because of our performance. If merit and performance were the criteria, we would get the doormat treatment instead.”
Christ gave us an example by washing the feet of his disciples. “Now we are to roll out the red carpet for one another, even if that means becoming doormats for our brothers and sisters.”
Metzger illustrates by sharing the story of someone who lives out John 13. It’s not someone who is part of the “CEO church culture that prizes hierarchy and status and national platform.” Gavin, who suffers from diabetes, is ordinary by the world’s standards. Many people might just see him as a doormat, but when Gavin volunteered to help Metzger move to a new home, Metzger saw something else.
After all of the other helpers had gone home for the day, Gavin, despite having to taking breaks to recuperate and replenish because of his condition, insisted on staying until the work was done. Metzger and his wife wondered, who is this guy? They could not have completed their work that day if it had not been for Gavin.
This marked the beginning of a long-term relationship, one in which the author, has seen Gavin lead by his example of sacrificially loving and caring for others.
Gavin gets that “Jesus has laid down his for him, rolling out the red carpet on the night of his passion so that Gavin can journey home to the Father’s house (Jn. 14:1-4). The more we experience Jesus’ red carpet treatment, the more we’ll lay ourselves down as doormats for others and live out the full extent of Jesus love….”
I wonder if humility is an overlooked attribute in biblical exegesis. Who we are determines in part how much we see. Metzger’s humility serves the reader well. His openness and honesty enable readers to get to the heart of the matter. He sees what is important.
In “Burnout” (Jn. 15:1-8) he writes, “It’s not how much I do, but how dependent I am on him and his word as I relate to others that makes the biggest impact, bears the most abundant fruit to the glory of God and shows that I am Jesus’ disciple (Jn. 15:7-8).”
It would be easy to provide more examples of the author’s rich devotional thought. This is a wonderful supplement to more formal commentaries. It’s not just something new and fresh; it’s a worthy addition to the growing body of scriptural exegesis. It’s an excellent resource for relating timeless truths to today’s world.
Metzger is professor at Multnomah Biblical Seminary in Portland, Oregon and director of its Institute for the Theology of Culture: New Wine, New Wineskins (www.new-wineskins.org).