What we cannot avoid in Jesus’ story

Mar 02 2021

Between the Lazarus incident and Jesus’ final trip to Jerusalem, he spent time in a remote region in a village called Ephraim. In John’s Gospel, we read the statement, “[Jesus] withdrew … and stayed there…” (11:54)

I wonder…For how long? Where did he stay? What did Jesus do to fill the hours? Can we legitimately fill in what we know of the geography, climate, and culture?

This wondering and filling is normal. In fact, it is inevitable. Literary theorist Seymour Chatman explains:

Whether the narrative is experienced through a performance or through a text, the members of the audience must respond with an interpretation: they cannot avoid participating in the transaction. [The audience] must fill in the gaps with .. likely events, traits and objects which for various reasons have gone unmentioned. . . .  There is a virtually infinite continuum of imaginable details between the incidents, which will not ordinarily be expressed, but which could be. The author selects those events he feels are sufficient to elicit the necessary sense of continual. Normally, the audience is content to accept the main lines and to fill in the interstices (the gaps) with knowledge it has acquired from ordinary living and art experience.**

Chatman’s observation leads me to conclude that SpendaYearwithJesus is the inevitable response of a participating audience member. I “must” fill in the gaps thereby infusing the story with meaning.

** Seymour Chatman, Story and Discourse: Narrative Structure in Fiction and Film (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1978, 1993), 30.

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