John 2:18-22

When studying their craft, actors learn not to break the “fourth wall” of a stage and speak directly to the audience. The same is usually true for a story’s narrator. We are comfortable with the third-person perspective when the narrator’s voice fades into the background.

Until that narrative voice stops telling the story and speaks directly to us. Although uncomfortable for us, this ancient narrative device probably had its origins in public legal proceedings. Turning to address the audience was so common that it is addressed in ancient books on rhetoric and in surviving plays.

John’s Gospel makes good use of the narrative “aside.” As today’s text begins, the crowd misunderstands Jesus’ use of the word temple. Misunderstandings are common within this Gospel. Since John’s audience might also be confused, the narrator ensures that we readers clearly understand that temple refers to Jesus’ bodily resurrection. And in case we think we should have caught that the first time, the narrator reports that even the disciples didn’t understand the reference until after Jesus’ resurrection.

Skipping the footnotes (the modern equivalent of a narrative aside) is tempting. In our hurry to get through the story, we skip over what we consider extraneous information. But when we do, we may bypass important details that could affect how we interpret a text. Our lives become so busy that we rush from one thing to the next. We lose the time and space to reflect or contemplate. We celebrate our busyness as an achievement, rather than lament how it distracts us from our real goals. Have you gotten into the habit of sacrificing quality for quantity? Maybe the meaning we seek is right in front of us, resting in an aside we tend to overlook. 


Has life gotten so noisy that you risk missing the whisper of God’s Spirit?


God, speak to us in tones we cannot ignore. Open the ears of our hearts to hear your still, small voice. Amen.

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