Spatiality as a basic category of human existence and of our created reality has been strangely neglected in the theological tradition …..The incarnation, however, was as much an event in space as an event in time. That would suggest, perhaps, that, just as the incarnation is thought to be the center and meaning of history, thereby transforming our understanding of what it is to be a historical being, there might also be ways in which that same event bears upon and is transformative of our understanding of what it is to exist in space. Perhaps too the spatial language of the biblical witness might be discovered to offer a more direct rather than merely symbolic reference to the being and act of God.” – a blog on Theology and the Spatial Arts
The narrative of John is a narrative of space. It does not have Mark’s “immediately,” to express the urgency of Jesus’ mission, as well as his perfect obedience. It does not have the detailed historical placement of Luke who wants to situate Jesus in the bigger historical frame (“In the time of Quirinius”), not to say the bigger political history is important but that at the end, the history of this single man will redefine all history.
But John is not interested in time (except for the Jewish seasons). It is frustrating to read John as a chronology (the driving of the temple merchants happen near the start of the story). Jesus’s story is told where it happens and not when it happens (“next to Solomon’s colonnade”). John is interested in Jesus’ movement in space. Jesus flows back and forth from Galilee to Judea to Galilee. His miracles and teachings happen in this rhythm. And the space between is not meaningless, either. The woman-at-the-well story occurs in this in-between.
But in chapter 10, a shift of scenery. The change creates expectation. Jesus goes back near the Jordan river where John the baptist ministered. Then in chapter 11, we find Jesus going to Bethany, towards Judea.
The Lazarus story is unlike any other miracle stories, in John or in the gospel. But part of that depth and power is because where it happens. We know that the final days of Christ is coming, his showdown with the evil of this world, the day he will sacrifice his life and be lifted up. It is not the time but space that is creating this climax.
During Lent, I have been thinking more about space, the places I move back and forth from, the space I occupy, the space that occupies me. Most especially the interior design of my heart, the ideas and memories determining my heart. I am finding that I can often affect the heart-space through the physical space. For example, I am writing this in a room, bare and a cocoon of silence before the kids awake. It gives me space to think about Christ, and how he moved in space, and how I should move and fashion my space.