September 13, 2015.
Daily Reading: John 5-6.
Concepts and Connections.
1. Healing on the Sabbath: Now that Jesus has stated His ministry, John gives us an account of His healing a lame man on the Sabbath, something that was notorious for getting Him in troubles with the Jews. Here we find Jesus traveling past the pool of Bethesda where many invalids were gathered, for the common belief was that an angel of the Lord would come down and trouble the waters, and then whoever got in the pool first would be healed of their disease (this appears in some biblical versions, but is not in the earlier manuscripts; it was likely added in as a marginal explicatory note to explain for readers that were outside that time period why the man wanted to get into the pool). The lame man that Jesus asks if he wants to be healed had no one to help into the pool when it was troubled. What he didn’t realize, however, was that he was speaking to the One who could heal him with a word, which is precisely what Jesus did. Note that there were plenty of invalids congregated here, but as far as we know, Jesus only chose to heal this man. Miracles had a purpose, and that purpose was not typically for the sole benefit of the one who was getting healed. We will learn the purpose later on in this chapter, as Jesus talks about the witness of the Father of Him. Jesus tells the man to take up his bed and walk, and he does, but before he could get His name, Jesus withdraws Himself into the crowd so when the Jews ask the man who told him to take up his bed, he couldn’t tell them. He later finds Jesus who tells Him to sin no more, and the Jews begin persecuting Jesus for healing on the Sabbath. His response to their objection is that His Father had been working until this day, and now the Son continues working. The Jews were so focused on the Sabbath that they had missed seeing the Lord of the Sabbath (see Matthew 12:1-14).
2. The deity and authority of Jesus: The last statement of Jesus in the story above gave the Jews even more of a reason to persecute Jesus, as it implicitly stated that He was equal with God, being the Son of God. Jesus goes on to press the issue further, explaining how the will of the Son and the Father are one, and how He, as the Son, has been given authority of both life and judgment, that the Son might be glorified as the Father has been glorified. The gospel of John is very clear about the deity and authority of Jesus, leaving no room to speculate that Jesus only thought of Himself as a good human teacher. His message of salvation is clear, that people must believe in Him to have eternal life, for He was the giver of life. Soon they would see that He had this power, as the dead would come forth at His call (He would raise Lazarus in chapter 11), which would confirm His assertion that on the last day, all would come forth out of the grave at His voice, the good to the resurrection of life and the evil to the resurrection of judgment. His conjunction of the judgment of the Son of Man and the two separate resurrections is likely an echo of Daniel’s visions (see Daniel 7:13-14, 12:1-4).
3. Witnesses to Jesus: This last section in this chapter is perhaps the culmination of everything that has happened in this chapter so far, for Jesus is explaining the ample evidence for His message that the Jews were unwilling to accept. Under the Law, there was a necessity of two or three witnesses to confirm a charge (see Deuteronomy 19:15), and it would seem that this idea had been expanded past just the charge of a crime, to a confirmation of truth. The Jesus recognized that if He was the only one to bear witness of Himself, there would be no credit to believe Him, as anyone could just say the things He did. However, there had been two other very credible witnesses given to His people that were there to confirm His testimony. John the baptizer was sent ahead of the Messiah to prepare the way for Him, bearing witness to who He was (see Malachi 4 and John 1:1, 19). The Jews accepted John, but they were unwilling to accept the one who John pointed to as the Christ. Not only did John witness about Jesus as the Son, but the Father in heaven also witnessed about Jesus through both His power and His word. Jesus said that the miraculous signs that He was doing was for the purpose of His witness, as the Father confirming His word. Similarly, the purpose of the miraculous signs given the apostles were for the same reason, to confirm that their word was from God (see Mark 16:20, I Corinthians 1:4-9). Not only did the Father confirm the testimony of Jesus through His power, but He did so as well through the word He spoke through the scriptures and prophets. The Jews had searched the scriptures for year in their anticipation of the coming Messiah, their Savior, yet when He was standing before Him, they were unwilling to see Him. Jesus makes some straight forward and blunt statements to the Jews here, telling them that they do not have the love of God in them because they did not accept Him as the one who was sent. The Jews had their own law to accuse them, for they would not accept the words of Moses about the Prophet that was to arise after Him (see Deuteronomy 18:15). If they would not accept the words of Moses about the Christ, Jesus did not expect them to accept His words. He was sent to His own people, but His people did not receive Him.
1. The feeding of the 5,000: The story of Jesus’ miraculous feeding of the 5,000 found at the beginning of this chapter is one of the few miracles of Jesus that is recorded in all four gospels (see Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:32-44 and Luke 9:10-17). Here, this sign seems to be both a test of faith for the apostles as well as the set up to a lesson that He would teach to the crowd on the next day. Jesus looks at the crowd that was following Him and He turns to His disciples to test them with a question, because He already knew what He was going to do. He asks where to buy some bread to feed the crowed. His disciples are astonished at the question, for they would need much more money than they had to even feed each of the crowd just a little. It is interesting that Andrew even makes the note that there is a young boy who has five loaves and two fish, for he knew that would not serve the problem at hand. But after having the people sit down and blessing the bread, Jesus passed out the loaves and fish, and there were 12 baskets full of leftovers. Not surprisingly, the crowd was amazed, so much so that Jesus perceived that they would try and take Him to make Him king. This was not the plan, however, for Jesus’ kingdom is not an earthly kingdom (see John 18:36), so He withdrew to the mountain by Himself. He would use this miracle as a key point of His sermon the next day.
2. “I AM the bread of life”: That evening, when Jesus is nowhere to be found, His disciples get in a boat and push off towards Capernaum, and about three or four miles out Jesus comes to them walking on the water, comforting them with the words, “It is I, do not be afraid.” When the crowds see that Jesus or His disciples were not there in the morning, they too pressed out in the sea towards Capernaum, seeking Jesus. When they find Jesus, a very interesting conversation unfolds, one in which Jesus would teach a hard lesson to the crowd. They start asking Him when He got to Capernaum, but Jesus tells the crowd that they are not seeking Him because He did great signs, but rather because He fed them physical food. It would seem this is certainly the case, for when He says that they are to believe in Him later, they ask for a sign, even though they had just been fed with five loaves and two fishes. When Jesus brings up food that endures for eternal life, they bring up Moses and the manna from heaven (see Exodus 16). Jesus makes it clear that it was God, not Moses, who gave the bread in the wilderness, and that it was Him that comes from the Father to give the bread of life. When they ask for this bread always, Jesus makes the first “I AM” statement in John, which echoes the I AM passage in Exodus 3:13-22, given to Moses at the burning bush. Jesus says that He is the bread of life, He in whom whoever believes will never hunger or thirst. The crown seems to immediately recognize what He was saying with this statement, at least in part, for they start to grumble at it saying that they had known Him from a child, and that He could not have come down from heaven if they had seen Him all this time. Jesus again has some very hard words and hard teachings in this chapter, for He says that no one could come to Him unless drawn by the Father. He quotes Isaiah 54:13 saying that those who are drawn will be taught by God. He makes a comparison of Him and the manna that their fathers ate in the wilderness, showing how He was more than the manna, for the people of Israel who received the manna all ate but still died later. Those who would eat of His flesh, the bread of heaven, and drink His blood would live eternally. Could you imagine being told this? The crowd debated about what He meant, and they grumbled. It was a hard statement indeed. But notice what Jesus does. He does not explain Himself. He does not try and sugar coat what He said. He doesn’t try to woo the people back after saying a hard truth. He asks “Are you offended at this?” Then He continues on in the hard teaching, even telling them that there are some that don’t believe! Many left at this teaching. Jesus does not call out after them, but rather turns to the apostles and asks “Do you want to go away as well?” Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life…” Then Jesus even tells the apostles that one among them is a devil, referring to Judas Iscariot, who would betray Him. Jesus does not shy away from hard teachings in this chapter, nor does He seek not to offend at the compromise of truth. These are good lessons for us to remember; not that we should seek to offend, but that we should not sugar coat the truth in a way that compromises it.
Tomorrow’s Reading: Numbers 5-8.
The Lord be with you.