NextLevel Online: John

Session 4: John 6, 7 & 8

I am and Rejection: In this session, Jesus feeds the 5,000, walks on water, public opposition rises, and examining the textual problem of the woman taken in adultery.



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John 6

Another Passover has come. On the far shore of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus is about to perform the only miracle recorded in all four Gospels (Mt 14, Mk 6, Lk 9). Five thousand men have hurried (see Mk 6:33) to be there, and now they have no food. Even bread costing 200 denarii, (a denarius is a day's wage) will not feed them. Accepting a boy's small lunch, Jesus turns it into enough to feed everyone, with twelve small basketfuls left over. As with the wine at Cana, the abundance is astonishing.

That night the people are wanting to force Jesus to be their king. So he sends his disciples across the lake and goes up the mountainside (the modern Golan Heights) to talk things over with his Father. For hours the disciples row against a headwind out of the east, when suddenly Jesus catches up with them, walking on the water.

The next morning the crowd awakes to find Jesus gone. Puzzled, they get into boats that have been blown across the lake by the eastern wind of the previous night and go searching for Jesus in Capernaum, where his family now lives. When they find him at the local synagogue (see v.59), Jesus speaks about the Bread of Life.

God through Moses had given their fathers manna in the desert; now God is giving them the true bread from heaven—Jesus himself. To their shock and dismay, Jesus insists that they must eat his flesh and drink his blood to have life. He repeatedly uses a word for “eat” (trogo) that means to “crunch noisily like an animal.” Unacceptable! At this point nearly all his disciples leave him. Peter bravely speaks for the Twelve, however; they cannot leave the only One who has “the words of life.”

But how can a follower of Jesus eat his flesh and drink his blood? It cannot be actual cannibalism. Could it be done by eating the Lord's Supper (Mt 26:26), or by ingesting the words of Jesus (Jn 6:63), or by believing in Jesus (Jn 6:40)? It seems likely that all these are involved. To eat Jesus' flesh and drink his blood is to participate in his sacrificial death. That is what the Lord's Supper is about (1 Cor 11:26—and baptism as well, Rom 6:4 and Col 2:12); that is what faith in Jesus and his message is about (1 Cor 2:2; 15:2-4). Participating in Jesus' death is what it means to enter and belong to the New Covenant.

On a separate note, this is the first of the seven “I am” statements in John (6:48; 8:12; 10:7; 10:11; 11:25; 14:6; 15:1). They seem to be a deliberate echo of the statement of God in Exodus 3:14, “I am that I am.” In addition, there is the remarkable claim of Jesus in John 8:58, “Before Abraham was, I am.”

John 7

Six months after the Passover of John 6 comes the Feast of Tabernacles (October). This was the greatest feast in the Jewish calendar, like a 4th of July and Thanksgiving rolled into one. It was a patriotic event, when people camped out in booths of branches and leaves to commemorate their deliverance from bondage in Egypt. It was also a time to thank God for the fall harvest.

Jesus' brothers urged him to go to Judea and put his miracles on display. Since (or more literally, “if”) he was doing these things, he ought to be a more public figure. But whatever his brothers thought about the miracles, they did not believe in Jesus himself. Jesus said he would not go, since his time was not fully come. When the feast was half way over, however, Jesus did go to Jerusalem. (Some ancient mss. resolve this apparent problem with the reading, “not yet going” instead of “not going” in verse 8.) A more likely solution is that Jesus really didn't go to the feast: he did not set up a booth or do the observances; he just showed up at the temple and taught.

At this point, midway through the third year of Jesus' ministry, the diverse reactions of people are more and more pronounced. He's good; no, he's a deceiver (v. 12). He's not the Messiah (v. 27); yes, he is (v. 31). He's the Prophet (v. 40, see Deut 18:15); he's the Messiah (v. 41). The temple guards are very impressed (v. 46); the Pharisees are not (v. 47). These mixed reactions will proliferate in the next few chapters.

Other special notes:

  • The “one miracle” done by Jesus (v. 21) refers back to the lame man of Chapter 5. If the Jews could circumcise on the Sabbath, why couldn't Jesus take care of a man's entire body?

  • The people had two wrong ideas that they think prevent Jesus from being the Messiah: (a) the Messiah has to come from an unknown place, v. 27; (b) the Messiah has to come from Bethlehem, v. 42. In fact, Jesus did appear suddenly among men and he did come from Bethlehem.

  • On the final great day of the feast, Jesus promised “rivers of living water,” by which he meant the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (v. 39). Significantly, “the Spirit had not yet been given” (not until Pentecost), “since Jesus had not yet been glorified” (meaning his death on the cross, as in 3:15 and 12:32).

  • After Nicodemus tried to give Jesus a fair hearing, the other Pharisees derided him. No one good comes out of Galilee, certainly none of the prophets. (And except for Elijah and Jonah, they were almost right.)

John 8

The story of the woman taken in adultery (7:53-8:11) presents a problem. It is one of the best known stories of Jesus' life, but it is absent in virtually all of the oldest manuscripts. When it did begin to show up, it was inserted at five different places (John 7:36, 44, 52; 21:25; Luke 21:38) and was marked with asterisks or obeli to separate it from the firm text. No church father writing in Greek commented on this passage until the 12th century. It also has a bit of bad theology: only a totally sinless person can condemn anyone else's behavior. In my judgment this passage is not Scripture.

And yet. Some scholars consider it an authentic event in Jesus' life, even if it was not written by John as Scripture. It correctly shows Jesus' forgiveness and his insistence that people must leave their sin. It correctly reminds us that none of us is perfect. But these truths are probably better taught from other places in the Gospels.

Resuming the text at 8:12, we encounter Jesus' second “I am” statement: he is the light of the world. The Pharisees, as always, object. But Jesus makes one of his boldest claims: “If you do not believe that I am, you will die in your sins” (v. 24). Then he predicts, “When you have lifted up (crucified, as in 3:15 and 12:32) the Son of Man, then you will know that I am” (v. 28). Not all would believe, of course, but the death and resurrection did make believers of some of the priests and the Pharisees (see Acts 6:7 and 15:5).

To the Jews who have believed in him up to this point (v. 31) Jesus makes a famous pronouncement: “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” But somewhat surprisingly, this turns them against Jesus. Abraham is their father and they claim that they have never been enslaved to anyone. (Except for Egypt, Philistia, Midia, Assyria, Babylonia, Greece, Syria and Rome!) Pride is such a barrier to truth.

Then they say God is their father. But in fact their real father is the devil. He inspired murder from the beginning and now they are attempting murder. He was always a liar and now they are rejecting the truth. Their only response? They call Jesus a Samaritan (as a heretic) and demon-possessed (as one who talks crazy). After all, he says that people who believe in him will never die!

Then comes the climax. Their much vaunted ancestor Abraham was actually a believer in the coming Messiah, Jesus says, and rejoiced to see Jesus' day. What? Jesus—well under 50 years old—has seen Abraham? Jesus' majestic response: “Before Abraham was born, I am!” To claim to have lived before Abraham—even using the divine “I am”—well, that is too much. The Jews who had believed in him (v. 31) are ready to stone him.

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The vision of Ozark Christian College is to glorify God by evangelizing the lost and edifying Christians worldwide. The mission of Ozark Christian College is to train men and women for Christian service as a degree-granting institution of biblical higher education.